With last weekend's first snowfall, it seems that patio season is definitely over in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
But just five more months and we'll be back in the swing, able to dine or enjoy a beverage al fresco again.
It was encouraging to see NOTL council unanimously vote last month to extend its special patio program – which expedited approvals and even allowed a few patios to be extended into the street in front of some NOTL restaurants.
Having the assurance that red tape will be curbed and patios will again be welcomed in unconventional spaces in 2022, was encouraging for NOTL restaurants that have been fighting for survival through nearly two years of this global pandemic.
We have enjoyed breakfast on the streetside patio at the Sunset Grill in Old Town, lunch in the expansive beer garden behind the Old Angel Inn, a pint on the asphalt at the Irish Harp and a beer in the rain under an umbrella at Silversmith.
The beer garden at Butler's, the patio under the “tent” at the Sand Trap and the large outdoor space at Ruffino's are just some of the many establishments around town that have innovated and brought a new look and different ambiance to the dining experience.
Kudos to these operators for pivoting during COVID and to the town for helping them make it all a reality.
The patios have been a valuable addition to our town, for visitors and locals alike.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero summed it up well when she spoke about the positive change patios have brought to the town, particularly Queen Street.
“They bring more busyness and a sense of people wanting to be down on Queen just to sit and watch people walk by,” she said.
And she is right. They bring a new vibe and liveliness to staid Niagara-on-the-Lake. And that should be welcome.
But the town's work is not done. We urge council to make this change permanent, a positive legacy of COVID. And to find a way to make it work, even to allow a few downtown patios to extend onto the street as they have for the past two summers.
Yes, it's a big change. But a good change and one we need to find a way to make permanent.