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Update on Restaurant Tents in Burlington

Restaurant Tents in Burlington

The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit throughout the pandemic. Prolonged lockdowns and labour shortages, along with increasing food costs, have made their struggles extraordinarily challenging. Our community loves and needs our restaurants and the City has taken many steps over the past 20 months to support them, such as expedited patio permits, waived fees, and inclusion of representatives of the Burlington Restaurant Association in the Burlington COVID-19 Task Force.

Throughout the pandemic many restaurant owners demonstrated  incredible resilience and flexibility, doing all they could to stay in business and serve their customers safely. Our supportive community ordered curbside pickup and when the weather was pleasant, we sat outside on spacious patios with friends and family. Restaurant owners got creative with their outdoor spaces and created expanded patios and covered tents to increase their outdoor seating when indoor dining was not permitted. These tents were even up in the colder weather last winter, and our city building teams worked hard with owners to ensure the tents met the guidelines and codes required to keep staff and customers safe. Making sure emergency exit routes were sufficient, proper ventilation was in place for heaters, and the timely removal of heavy winter snow loads from roofs were just some of the important elements that had to be considered.

When the Province removed limitations to indoor dining capacities late last month (provided they require proof of vaccination from patrons), we all felt relief for our local restaurants and saw the tables start to fill up again.

With winter temperatures now upon us, and tents needing to be enclosed again to keep customers warm, our Chief Building Official has requested a small number of the remaining tents be removed due to public safety concerns.

This request relates to the small number of tents that were originally approved based on the assumption of zero indoor diners. With all patrons already being outside in the tent, any emergency that required them to exit the premise quickly (like a fire) would still provide sufficient time and space for them to safely do so. With indoor dining now back in full force, the safety concerns have changed.

I empathize greatly with our restaurant industry as they continue to recover from the effects of pandemic lockdowns and I know our community will fill up tables in the months ahead especially with our high vaccination rates. I also appreciate the important role our Chief Building Official plays in making objective decisions that prioritize the health and safety of our community as per Provincial regulations, and ultimately this is his decision. These are challenging times and I know we are all doing our best to support one another through them.

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9 thoughts on “Update on Restaurant Tents in Burlington”

  1. I have shared these concerns with Councillor Lisa Kerns. In downtown Burlington, some enclosed patios/tents pose a safety issue for vehicles wanting to access or leave their condos, to/from underground parking. This is also a problem with access or egress related to City of Burlington parking lots Site lines are significantly reduced by the covered patios. Couple this with large service trucks idling in the roads that are designed for 2 cars moving north and south, causing a reduced driving lane for moving vehicles. These trucks park in close proximity to the patios .In my opinion, these patio tents need to be re-examined with an eye on safety for pedestrians and vehicular traffic. New “Watch for Pedestrian” signs have been posted, Does this indicate that the City is concerned about the safety of pedestrians in the downtown core ?

    1. Hi Cathy, this is John Bkila, the Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist. Please note that any remaining tents that present a safety issue have been ordered to come down by Burlington’s Chief Building Official. City staff review all pedestrian and vehicular safety signs/efforts before approving them. Thank you for your feedback and input.

  2. I am dismayed by this and would request that the decision be reversed. I do get takeout but will not dine in and will not for a long time. Please let there be cover and heaters for the colder months.

    1. Hi Harriette, this is John Bkila, the Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist. The safety issues the Chief Building Official had only applied to a very small number of tents, not all. We apologize that that wasn’t initially made more clear. Safety for staff and patrons is always the priority.

  3. Many of the tents did not follow the rules set out by the province. There was to be at least one open area, most in Burlington did not have this. I looked at these enclosed tent structures with heaters as bacteria factories (heat, moisture, and people breathing in, as their masks are off while eating, drinking, and talking).

    There is no way I would go or suggest to people that these outdoor tents are safe.

  4. Removal of tents means those of us who aren’t comfortable going inside a restaurant to eat and aren’t able to be vaccinated lose an option to support our local restaurants-it means for us the only 2 options are to hope the restaurant accepts our exemption letter and is not overly packed or we need to order takeout and eat in our house.

    1. Hi Belinda, this is John Bkila, the Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist. The safety issues the Chief Building Official had only applied to a very small number of tents, not all. We apologize that that wasn’t initially made more clear. Safety for staff and patrons is always the priority.

  5. There are many of us that still do not feel safe going inside. The number of cases has started climbing. Restaurants have put a lot of money into safe enclosures and heaters, etc. The pandemic is not over. Let there be tents please.
    Doug Ramey

    1. Hi Doug, this is John Bkila, the Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist. The safety issues the Chief Building Official had only applied to a very small number of tents, not all. We apologize that that wasn’t initially made more clear. Safety for staff and patrons is always the priority.

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Phone: 905-335-7607
Email:  mayor@burlington.ca

Media Specialist: John Bkila
john.bkila@burlington.ca
905-335-7600