MORE sidewalk patios could be popping up around downtown Winnipeg if a pilot project launched this week is successful.
The project will see a short stretch of the north curb lane on Bannatyne Avenue between Rorie Street and Waterfront Drive converted into a "boardwalk" sidewalk for the summer to create room on the regular sidewalk for an outdoor patio for Corrientes Argentine Pizzeria.
If the experiment is successful, the design could become a prototype for other sidewalk patios in the downtown, including CentreVenture Development Corp.'s sports, hospitality, and entertainment district (SHED) straddling downtown Portage Avenue. That prospect has the Exchange District Business Improvement Zone's executive director rubbing his hands in anticipation.
"I think this is a very positive step, especially for our area," Brian Timmerman said.
He said there are quite a few restaurants in the area that can't have a sidewalk patio because the sidewalks are too narrow. This provides a creative solution for the problem.
"I'm very optimistic this is going to be a positive step for a lot of these restaurants. I know of at least a couple of others that really want to have a patio... " he said. "And it will bring that much more life to the streets."
The pilot project is a joint initiative of CentreVenture, Corrientes and the city. CentreVenture's development officer, Loretta Martin, said she and Corrientes owner Noel Bernier came up with the concept last winter while kicking around ideas about how to bring more vibrancy to downtown streets during the summer.
They came up with the idea of temporarily converting part of the parking lane into an alternative walkway for pedestrians to create room for a patio on the regular sidewalk. The wooden sidewalk would be the same height as the regular sidewalk to enable pedestrian traffic to flow smoothly around the patio.
Martin said city officials approved the concept, and the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission agreed to grant a probationary liquor licence for Corrientes' patio, even though it won't be directly connected to the restaurant. That's normally required under provincial liquor regulations, but Corrientes' door opens onto the lobby of the building where it is located at 137 Bannatyne rather than directly onto the street.
Martin said CentreVenture officials are optimistic the experiment will succeed and more restaurants will open patios next summer. Corrientes co-manager Gonzalo Agrimbau agreed, saying another eatery Bernier owns on Bannatyne -- Hermanos Restaurant & Wine Bar-- would almost certainly apply for one next summer.
He said Corrientes expected to open its new patio either Thursday night or today.
"For us, it's a very big deal. It will bring more business to the restaurant. And for the neighbourhood in general and our customers, I think a lot of people are very excited to see this happen."
Martin admitted some downtown businesses might not be thrilled about losing some on-street parking spaces for the summer.
Corrientes' patio, for example, will mean the loss of about three parking spots in front of the building.