Kelowna’s main drag is officially set to close, to vehicles, for most of the summer.
In an effort to assist downtown businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, the city is making Bernard Avenue a pedestrian-only thoroughfare, allowing restaurants and businesses to expand operations into parking spaces and streets.
Bernard will close to vehicle traffic from St. Paul Street to the Sails statue, including a portion of Abbott Street towards Lawrence Avenue. The intersections at cross streets would remain open to through traffic. The closure would begin June 29 and last through Sept. 8.
Over 10 metres of the road would be used as new patio space, with two three-metre walking lanes — one in each direction — in between. The sidewalks on both sides of the road would still be used by pedestrians.
The south side of Bernard Avenue would see significantly more on-road patio space at 7.5 metres than the north at 2.6 metres. That space will extend out directly from the business’ current frontage — unless they receive written consent from the owners of the adjacent properties to use their space.
Businesses serving liquor would be required to provide fencing demarcating their service area. That fencing, according to JoAnne Adamson, the city’s property manager, will be “uniform and consistent; classy and tasteful.”
Fencing would be optional for businesses not serving alcohol, however, the area must be visually demarcated in some way.
Cyclists will initially be allowed to ride down the centre pedestrian lanes but will still be restricted from riding on sidewalks. Adamson said the city will continue to monitor how cyclists and pedestrians interact and are prepared to close the pedestrian lanes to bicycles if need be.
While expressing some concern about cyclists potentially using sidewalks and suggesting staff consider putting up signs, Coun. Luke Stack said he is glad some other two-wheeled vehicles won’t be visiting Bernard this summer.
“We’ll be able to go downtown without Harley’s trying to deafen us with their machoism (sic),” he said.
A city-operated Public Space Task Force will be created to review and approve requests regarding the temporary use of public space throughout the city.
Patio fees have also been slashed across the city, due to city staff’s anticipation of around 50 per cent the usual capacity on patios due to distancing rules set out by the government.
“Bernard gets a lot of focus but this will benefit everywhere in the community,” said Coun. Brad Sieben, citing one business he’s been in contact with that has a patio ready to go.
Along Bernard, restaurants will have to pay the reduced fees for both their usual patio and the space they use on the street.
Council lauded the changes, with two councillors — Mohini Singh and Loyal Wooldridge — even bringing up the potential of this occurring annually.
“There are going to be some people who are pleasantly surprised who perhaps right now aren’t fully on board,” said Mayor Colin Basran.
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