Local Kitimat restaurants will get the chance to get their hands on some free outdoor furniture for the patio season.
With restaurants being hit the hardest throughout the pandemic, the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce will be working with local restaurants and supplying them with picnic tables, umbrellas, umbrella stands, tents, and heaters.
“When Public Health Orders decided to not open at full capacity and restaurants were scrambling to create makeshift patios, [during the new circuit breaker guidelines in late March], I thought ‘How could the chamber help take a little bit of that burden off,” Laurel D’Andrea, executive director of the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce asked herself when all indoor dining and liquor sales were restricted.
The chamber then secured $30,000 from Rio Tinto to supply outdoor furniture necessities.
As restaurants like The Chalet, Hirsch Creek Golf Course, Mr. Mikes, Rosarios, The Bistro, and Dolce Verona have begun to take advantage of the free furniture offered by the chamber, D’Andrea wants the public to know that the outdoor furniture is available for all local restaurants, chamber members or non-chamber members.
Although the equipment is available for all restaurants throughout the year, the chamber thinks of itself as a lending library as the contract between the chamber and Rio Tinto specifies that the equipment has to remain with the chamber of commerce.
“[Local restaurants] can trial these patios and, moving forward next year, if the patios are a success [for local restaurants], maybe they can work towards having permanent outdoor patios,” D’Andrea said.
After the restaurants are finished with the patio furniture for the year, the chamber will be able to re-use the equipment for other events like pop-up markets, dry-grad, and other celebrations.
When all indoor dining and sales were suspended in late March, Kitimat council waived all patio fees for those wishing to use district lands for outdoor service.
As commercial use patios on public lands were $250 per season and $250 per parking stall made unusable, council believed that waiving the public lands policy fees in 2021 was necessary, considering the additional restrictions that took place on March 30th.
Though nobody took the offer last year, the town is beginning to see restaurants jump on the opportunity to increase their foot traffic and sales.
“Expanding patios is a great way for local restaurants to welcome customers back safely and comfortably after the long hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants are important for the local economy and the well-being of our employees and community members, and there is no better way to celebrate the summer than to support our restaurants in their business resilience and recovery plans,” said Rio Tinto official Ève Normandin.