June 22, 2024

Advancing Business Excellence

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Inglewood construction puts patio season at risk say local businesses

Across Calgary, warmer weather and blue skies have led many to enjoy a patio experience—that is unless those customers are visiting Inglewood.

Construction on 9 Avenue SE and 12 Street SE to address water line issues has led to a delay in patio permits being issued for local businesses in the community.

While business owners have said they aren’t opposed to the necessary work being completed, the timing of the construction has affected their ability to do business during the patio season.

“It is quite disappointing,” said Veronica Amaya, owner of Canela Vegan Bakery and Cafe.

“I’m not against anything that the city has to fix and repair, which is totally fair and necessary. Last year, we did that and they moved everything that was supposed to happen in May to a September, which is way, way better.”

Seasonal patios are allowed by the City of Calgary to be placed from May 1 through Oct. 31, and many other local business areas in the city including Kensington, Marda Loop, and Crescent Heights have already had businesses approved for patios.

In Inglewood, the construction occurring has delayed the approval of permits to at least June 15, according to the City of Calgary.

“We recognize that The City’s patio program adds vibrancy to our communities and is important for businesses and business owners. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of work related to infrastructure upgrades along 12 Street SE, we are presently unable to issue permits for patios along 9 Avenue until construction is completed,” said a city spokesperson.

“Businesses along this stretch were made aware of these delays, and of expected construction prior to the patio season, and The City reminds all Calgarians that during construction traffic in the area will be detoured.”

Traffic is delayed as construction takes place in Inglewood in Calgary on Thursday, June 6, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Businesses informed, but not until eve of patio season

Brian Powrie, co-owner of Norley’s Authentic Columbian Street Food, said that while the city has communicated with his business about the closure, it was the way in which the communication happened that he takes issue with.

“I know they’re digging, and they have to wait for the ground to thaw, but really no consideration for the businesses in this area. Street patios are a big thing, and then to find out we were given the go-ahead first and then to find out five days prior that it’s not going to go ahead, where’s the communication within the city?” Powrie said.

Powrie said that initially, the city department in charge of patios had sent out a letter to his business at the start of April, telling them to get ready for a May 1 start of the patio season.

A different City of Calgary department then informed his business at the end of April that there would be construction going ahead and that there would not be patio permits issued until that work was completed, he said.

“The lack of communication with a business Inglewood business community, it’s just, it’s unbelievable. Something that major no one gives a shit, and they just do it,” Powrie said.

He said that last year during construction the City of Calgary was willing to have a conversation about the timing of work, and that feedback from the business community was able to find a time that met everyone’s needs.

This year there was no interest in having that conversation, Powrie said.

“This is what’s happening. Just deal with it,” he said.

“The person in charge of street patios or he’s been our communication person, and he’s just like, ‘oh, I’m sorry about this, but this is the information I’ve received.’ So, he’s apologetic, but this is all it’s out of his hands.”

The Executive Director of the Inglewood Business Improvement Area, Rebecca O’Brien, said that the lack of communication from the City of Calgary has been very disappointing for the BIA.

“One of the really upsetting parts of this is that the communication up until knowing this was pretty much non-existent. I don’t know the complexity of an infrastructure project like the water main, I’m not an engineer… but what I will say is that this is an evident prioritizing of commuter traffic over a vibrant main street,” O’Brien said.

“Their mandate is to move vehicles quickly and efficiently through whatever areas, and my mandate as a business improvement area executive director is to help the businesses on 9 Avenue. I can tell you wholeheartedly, this patio delay is detrimental to those businesses.”

The City of Calgary said that they work with all of their partners to ensure that construction work can be completed promptly.

“We’d also like to remind all Calgarians that construction timelines are dependent on a number of factors (including scheduling and weather), and are subject to delays,” the City said.

A sign indicates that construction is ahead in Inglewood in Calgary on Thursday, June 6, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Loosing half of summer revenues

Amaya said that the inability to have a patio this year to date has meant that half of the normal revenues her business generates during the patio season have been lost.

In addition to not having patio space, she said, the construction has also been driving away customers from Inglewood.

“It’s not that you want to be driving back or driving to. You want to avoid it,” Amaya said.

That lack of customers wanting to visit the community has also led to other effects on her year-round business. Products that would have normally been sold during this time of year have not been purchased in normal quantities, forcing her to take a loss on un-purchased product.

“We have so many, so many because we didn’t know there were no people walking by.”

For Powrie, the inability to get a permit issued means increased costs for storage and for reduced summer employment through his business.

“I had already taken my patio. I told my guys I had to remove it because [the storage company] had booked somebody else for my storage area. It’s just a big gong show for all the planning and process that we go through at the restaurant side, and then just to find out the last minute that they changed the date on it,” he said.

“I added another two employees for waitressing to look after my weekend crowd all set up, so they’re not working. They’re waiting and waiting.”

Even if he gets his permit issued on June 15, the reality of setting up a patio still means a lost week of revenue as the first functional weekend for patio usage would be starting on June 22, he said.

O’Brien said that those extra costs and labour issues are not uncommon to BIA businesses as a result of the patio situation.

“They’ve got contractors to put the patios out, they’re looking at revenues and food orders and drinks orders and all the things that they need to plan ahead for. All those things have been put on hold, and it’s a direct hit to the revenues that they were counting on for this period of time,” she said.

“I think the roads people who I’ve spoken with have been very empathetic with the situation here, but I also feel there are decisions at a higher level that are biased towards the needs of commuter traffic. That’s actually not the city policy.”