It may be hard to imagine in the middle of January, but come spring, patrons of a downtown bar will be able to enjoy a drink on an expanded outdoor patio under a pilot project approved this week.
Meeting Tuesday, members of the city's operations committee approved the plan, which will see the entire sidewalk in front of Peddler's Pub on Cedar Street converted to a patio. Pedestrians will still be able to walk by thanks to a detour around, which will take up two of the parking spaces outside the business.
Cliff Skelliter, who handles marketing for Peddler's, said the idea is to create a sense of community downtown, with customers spending more time downtown.
“It's a downtown attraction,” Skelliter said. “It would be beautifully designed and give patrons the option of being outside, comfortable, enjoying the weather.
“We believe people sitting around outside, on the patio, creates a sense of community, and gives them the opportunity to look around and discover the beautiful shops around them.”
That in turn creates more activity downtown, draws more people to the area, which benefits nearby businesses. There are several unique shops downtown, he said, that people aren't aware of.
“There's a lot of people walking down Cedar (Street), but they're not necessarily seeing the beautiful shops that are around,” he said. “A lot of people are stuck inside buildings if they want to go out for a drink. And it's a beautiful thing in the summertime to be able to go outside.”
The biggest concern would be the loss of parking spaces downtown, an area where parking is already at a premium. But Skelliter said it's a tradeoff that's worthwhile.
“The loss of parking downtown is worth bringing in more tourists and promoting a pedestrian culture downtown,” he said.
They surveyed nearby businesses, who all support the idea, he said. It's a low-cost way to increase downtown foot traffic, something that would benefit their neighbours.
“They loved the idea of it – and the idea that when they get off work, they can go outside on the patio and have a beer.”
Maureen Luoma, the executive director of Downtown Sudbury, said Peddler's has their enthusiastic support.
“We're really excited about it,” Luoma said. “It speaks to pedestrians, to the ambiance downtown, to the arts, culture and entertainment components of our downtown.”
Skelliter said they would cover all costs, and hope to replicate the success a similar initiative in Barrie had two years ago.
“They had tremendously positive results,” he said. “So what we're doing is creating a blueprint for other businesses to show how this could work and how their business could grow because of this.”
They plan to be ready in the spring, as long as they receive city support and necessary approvals.
Ward 10 Coun. Frances Caldarelli said it was an avenue to help businesses grow and to create the sort of conditions for the area to thrive.
“We're trying to find things that will bring our downtown alive,” Caldarelli said. “When you're open, I'll come and try it out.”
And Ward 2 Coun. Jacques Barbeau said it was a sample of what cities such as Halifax have done, where entire streets are closed off, creating busy pedestrian area.
“I don't think we're ready for that yet,” he said, but it's a start.