Meet Me on Bernard will be two blocks shorter this year.
At its April 3 regular meeting, city council asked the Downtown Kelowna Association (DKA) board for its thoughts on the program and whether the 400 and 500 blocks (Pandosy to St. Paul) should be closed as part of the program.
After careful consideration, the board has recommended those two blocks of Bernard Avenue should not be closed.
They will remain open to vehicle traffic, and the DKA recommended that restaurants in those blocks be allowed to expand patios into the parking stalls in front of their establishments.
“Businesses have been very vocal about their displeasure with the road being closed,” said Mark Burley, DKA executive director. “I think more than anything we’re disappointed we weren’t able to make it work for them.”
Burley noted there have been many roadblocks along the way that were out of everybody’s control, including the pandemic, which was the reason the program was started, extreme heat in 2021 and 2022, as well as six weeks of wildfire smoke in 2021.
“Which ended up a lot of programming for those few blocks being cancelled,” he said.
The DKA has also recommended that any future inclusion of 400 and 500 blocks should be revisited annually, once the Mission Group’s “Bernard Block” office building and residences between St. Paul and Bertram streets is completed.
“So you have the foot traffic coming from there and then the draw from those businesses in the bottom of the block, which no doubt will include restaurants and bars, drawing people up Bernard from the lake,” said Burley.
Another recommendation from the DKA is for the city to revisit the costs associated with extending patios for the summer.
The board received significant feedback from restaurant owners that it’s a break-even or loss proposition for them.
“Some of these patios were anywhere between $6,00 and $10,000 for two months if not more,” added Burley. “Businesses find it hard to make that back because traffic isn’t guaranteed.”
Meet Me On Bernard is starting early this year, with the street closing between The Sails and Water Street, on the May long weekend.