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This article was published 9/7/2015 (1617 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
While the Corydon Avenue strip used to be the best place to get your patio fix, downtown is giving it a run — well, more of a leisurely sit-down — for its money.
Since 2006, when the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ launched its patio program, the number of patios downtown has risen to 36 from 22.
The BIZ has two landscape architects on staff to consult with business owners and streamline the process of getting patio designs and city permits.
Business owners pay for city permits, which usually cost about $1,000, but most of the rest of the work gets done by the BIZ, said Charlie Nelson, co-owner of Casa Burrito on Portage Avenue.
"The BIZ provided everything — the fencing, the tables, the chairs, everything. All I had to do was email back and forth to see how things were going," Nelson said.
The added curb appeal brought by a patio is helping boost business considerably, Nelson said.
"We’ve had it in for approximately a month and all the regulars really like it. It has brought a little more attention to the front of our business. People are taking more notice, who may have normally just walked by or went to Subway," he said.
Gary Tesfatsion, the owner of Bar Red Sea on Portage Avenue, has also seen his nightly head count jump. The Ethiopian eatery sees about 20 more patrons every evening thanks to its new patio seating.
For first-time business owners such as Tesfatsion and Priya Tandon, who opened Clay Oven inside the Hydro Building four months ago, any help getting off the ground is welcome.
"When they said, ‘Yeah, we can give you a patio,’ I was like, ‘What? That’s incredible!’" said Tandon.
"To have that kind of support really helps, especially when you open a new business."
Downtown businesses can buy patio furniture and fencing from the BIZ or rent it for a year as part of a patio program, that way they can determine whether the patio is feasible.
Fools & Horses Coffee Company is another restaurant profiting from the program. The Broadway café opened nearly two months ago and, with help from the BIZ, got its patio liquor license Thursday.
Co-owner Ben Gilles is excited to start serving coffee, beer, wine and charcuterie boards outdoors.
"The feedback we’ve gotten is people like feeling like they’re a part of the city as they’re enjoying their coffee," he said.
"They can watch people go by, and it seems like, just in general, because it is so cold in the winter, they want to get outside as much as they can in the summer."
Whether it’s by providing a single table and chairs or helping organize a more expansive patio set, such as the one at Rudy’s Eat and Drink on Graham Avenue, the BIZ is ready to add more patios this summer.
Downtown business owners need only to contact them.
"I think Corydon was the first place to have some amazing patios, but downtown Winnipeg has some phenomenal patios now," said Jason Syvixay, managing director of the Downtown BIZ. "I think it’s all about waking up in the morning and saying, ‘Where do I go?’ So people can now wake up and say, ‘Let’s go downtown.’"
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Friday, July 10, 2015 at 8:27 AM CDT: Adds photo