There’s a new patio season coming to Winnipeg, and count on the drinks staying cold.

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There’s a new patio season coming to Winnipeg, and count on the drinks staying cold.

The City of Winnipeg announced Friday it will allow a round of temporary patio registrations for Nov. 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021 — basically covering the winter months.

"With added restrictions due to the pandemic, the hospitality industry… is struggling right now and I’m hoping this winter patio program will help create more opportunities for business owners," Mayor Brian Bowman said.

The new patio season is meant to help businesses who still face limited capacity due to physical-distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mayor noted keeping outdoors drinks cold should be easy in a city known for wind-chill and frostbite warnings.

"Winnipeg’s the place to have a beer in the winter. It’s not going to get warm in the winter months," Bowman said.

Hearing the news, one local restaurant owner said he’ll "probably be first in line" to register.

"I really appreciate the work the city is doing to help bars and restaurants… to allow us to continue to operate safely, especially during these times," said Mark Turner, owner of the Amsterdam Tea Room and Bar.

Turner said he expects Winnipeggers are hearty enough to dine outdoors in parkas and mitts.

"I’m realistic that when it gets to -40 C with wind chill, there’s really nothing you can do to make it comfortable to sit outside. But it’s really with the majority of the time (that this will help), when it’s -10 C, -15 C, with low wind and it’s just beautiful outside," said Turner.

He said patio service would help restaurants offset earlier pandemic losses, noting his patio adds 30 seats to a pandemic-reduced 18 indoor spots. Turner said he’ll explore whether he can add awnings and heat lamps to make the experience more comfortable.

Turner said he hopes local winter patios can continue after the pandemic finally ends. "Winnipeg’s winter (lasts several) months of the year. You really need to embrace the winter in any way you can."

Megan McIntosh, operation co-ordinator of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said she welcomes any possible lifeline for restaurants but fears winter patio business could be limited.

She urged the city to consider further support for restaurants.

"We hope to see something that can help the industry as whole, not just those who have access to (patio) spaces," she said, adding about 10 per cent of Canadian restaurants have permanently closed during the pandemic.

Winnipeg businesses interested in registering a winter patio must submit new applications, even if they ran a temporary patio in the spring or fall.

Jason Shaw, Winnipeg assistant chief of emergency management, said the separation is needed because heaters, shelters and snow-removal plans must be assessed for safety issues.

The 64 current temporary patio registrations at Winnipeg restaurants and taprooms expire Oct. 31; applications open for winter patios Oct. 14.

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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