Summer patio takes off in Gastown

Restaurateur Sean Heather enjoys a pint on the patio of Rainier Provisions new street patio at Carrall and Cordova.

Restaurateur Sean Heather enjoys a pint on the patio of Rainier Provisions new street patio at Carrall and Cordova.

Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet , Vancouver Courier

Vancouver’s first standalone patio opened in front of Rainier Provisions liquor-licensed coffee shop and deli on Carrall Street at West Cordova two weeks ago. With its lime green, squash yellow, plum, peach and tomato-hued wooden pickets, the 30-seat patio is a fresh sight on a sometimes-gritty street.

Sean Heather of the Heather Hospitality Group says the city and the provincial liquor board wouldn’t previously license patios that weren’t set apart from a restaurant, but the presence of a fire hydrant or manhole cover could thwart plans for an immediately adjacent patio.

“It’s a pilot project and if it works, then it will open up opportunities for other people around the city to put patios,” Heather said. “In this weather, if you don’t have a patio, you’re not getting a lot of people sitting inside.”

The city will assess how well the standalone patio has worked at the end of the summer and when its licence comes up for renewal in a year.

Scott Edwards, manager of street activities for the city, noted the city chose an establishment with a restaurant primary licence for the trial. He says the province is agreeable to four of five such patios proceeding this year and he has told business improvement associations about the opportunity.

But what makes a separate patio work at Rainier Provisions’ site isn’t necessarily common across the city. Carrall Street was previously reconstructed with wider sidewalk bulges. A bike lane flanks the sidewalk so that motor vehicle traffic isn’t within arm’s reach. Rainier Provisions has no history of liquor-related infractions and Heather has agreed to have an employee on the patio at all times.

“We’re fortunate that we have a hand-held ordering system on iPod minis and we also have a hand-held credit card processing system,” Heather said. “It’s a little onerous in that if I had the patio beside the building, which would be eight feet from where it is, I wouldn’t have to do that. And the truth of the matter is in the afternoons when you have five people on the patio you still have a staff member standing on it.”

The veteran restaurateur hopes his trial will help others. “We’re not a fledgling startup business so you have some disposable revenue, if you like, so if we can do something that’ll help our brothers and sisters and maybe be acknowledged that somebody did that, then that’s worth it to us.”

According to Heather, architects and designers in the area have praised the patio but those who participate in the weekly Binners Market on Carrall resent that it encroaches on their space.

Michael Green Architecture, an award-winning Vancouver-based firm that champions the use of timber, even advocating for wooden skyscrapers, designed the patio so that it can be quickly uprooted.

“Any patio in Vancouver has to be able to be dismantled within 24 hours,” Heather said. “For example if [the city rents] out a street to a movie and the movie doesn’t want a patio on it, the city’s not going to lose the revenue because you won’t move the patio.”

The patio at Rainier Provisions is open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, later on weekends.

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