Now that summer is here and Niagara has moved into the second stage of recovery, residents and visitors alike are happy to be able to sit outside on one of the many patios open in town, enjoying a drink and a meal.
Restaurants with a licensed patio were able to open June 19, and some did. Other business owners took a little more time to prepare, but have opened since, and some without designated patio space have applied and received a special occasion permit from the Town to allow them to create a patio. For some, such as the Sandtrap Pub & Grill, it’s on their parking lot.
By Monday, the Town had received 20 applications for patios, 13 had been approved, and seven were pending.
All must ensure physical distancing is being followed, and many staff are wearing masks. Although that’s not mandated by the Province or the Town, it is a decision made by some restaurant owners to help their diners feel safe.
Kim Gauld of Sunset Grill was delighted to finally be able to open Friday, taking advantage of the Town’s efforts to help local businesses, permitting them to move out onto two Queen Street parking spaces in front of their restaurants, which they pay for on a per-day basis.
The patio has been constructed with wood flooring, and decorated with plants, and filled up rapidly after opening, says Gauld.
“It feels good to have our doors open, to have people here,” she said.
She had praise for the Town for working with restaurant owners, and making it possible for her to open.
Colleen Cone of OLiV says their patio has been open since June 19, the day the Province allowed Niagara to join in the second stage of recovery. They were among the fortunate to already have a licensed patio area, overlooking vineyards and Four Mile Creek, and also had room to expand their footprint so they can set tables two metres apart and have the maximum they’re allowed. It’s been busy, said Cone, with reservations filling the patio most days, although they take the occasional walk-in when there is a table available.
It’s a good feeling to be open and welcoming visitors, she says. “Everyone is so excited to be here.”
It also felt good to bring back most of their staff, although not all full time, she says.
“We have a new seasonal menu, and although it has a few less items than we would normally have, there is still lots to choose from. It’s working out really well for us.”
Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery has been doing takeout only until this week, and although that hasn’t brought in a huge amount of business, “we’ve been happy to feed the community,” says owner Paul Harber.
This Friday, however, he’s looking forward to welcoming locals to a new patio overlooking the vineyard, with an ideal set up to meet this situation.
As a winery, Ravine is licensed for serving alcohol “on all 34 acres of the property,” he says.
Harber says the winery recently spent $20,000 on 30 new picnic tables to help out the St. Davids Lions Club, and with all events for the club cancelled, he asked if he could borrow them for the summer.
He has 20 picnic tables under a tent, the other 10 scattered outside the tent amongst the grapevines, and can serve six to a table. At the end of each table, he has placed a wine barrel, and intends for servers to place the food on the top of the barrels, and guests can take it from there.
The menu offers more pub-style food for now such as pizza from its wood-fired ovens, and burgers, but will be rotating with different items each day. It will be open Wednesday to Sunday for now. Harber says he wants to open gradually and cautiously and safely, but he feels confident with the amount of space he has, along with a spectacular view, he can offer a Niagara-on-the-Lake experience safely.
Most restaurants are asking for reservations for their patios, and they fill up quickly, but will accommodate walk-ins when tables are available. For the days and hours of opening, call ahead or check their websites.