The yellow umbrellas of Sunny’s Modern Diner shade the early morning breakfast crowd from the already growing heat. Today the cheery banners flutter in the middle of Bernard Avenue in downtown Kelowna.
When owners Audrey Surrao and Chef Rod Butters opened the diner in 2018, they saw the long and narrow footprint of their new location as reminiscent of the pre-fab, stainless steel dining cars of the original diners. Now, the 16-seat shared-eating counter offers little open space as restaurants half their capacity to meet new health regulations.
Kelowna, like cities across North America, answered the call by opening sidewalks and closing streets to create large plein air dining rooms.
The beauty of outdoor spaces and urban life has long mixed on the pedestrian mall. Ottawa has its Sparks Street, Calgary Steven Avenue and Edmonton: the downtown area of 104th Street.
Since the pandemic, St. John’s has expanded sections of Duckworth Street, and Kitchener closed three streets to create a summer detour. Back at home, Vernon closed two blocks of 30th Avenue while Kamloops has ramped up its patio extension program, extending the entire 300-block of Victoria Street.
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For a city that loves its sun, the City of Kelowna’s $14-million investment in its “main street” back in 2014 was just the start. The call to make the street closure a permanent summertime event has been heard. In November, City Council voted in favour of new bylaws.
“Our downtown is arguably the heart of Kelowna, a social and commercial hub that serves the city as a whole,” says Mayor Colin Basran. “Investments here have been shown to drive tourism, community engagement and civic pride.”
As the restaurateurs say, “Meet me on Bernard.”
TAKE OUT BEER HERE TO STAY
We sheltered in place, we ordered in rather than dine out, but more than our meals saw rapid delivery. B.C. legislators fast- tracked new liquor laws. Takeout meals now came with beer, ciders or wine. Changes were made permanent in March 2021.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve had to make huge adjustments to our businesses, shifting to a takeout model,” said Ian Tostenson, president, B.C. Restaurant & Foodservices Association. “The temporary change helped us generate sales through a new revenue stream. Making it permanent offers continued relief from the financial hardship of the pandemic.