The break for restaurateurs running patios in Ottawa appears to be over, with fees returning to pre-pandemic levels next year.
The city of Ottawa’s 2024 draft budget includes a doubling of 2023 patio fees and a 2.5 per cent increase on top of that.
Starting in the new year, it will cost business owners $15.27 per square metre per month to operate a patio between April and October, up from the $7.54 they paid this year. Winter patio fees are rising from $2.43 per square metre per month to $4.92.
The patio permit processing fee is also going up $2 to $73.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of businesses very disappointed,” said Pub Italia owner Joe Cotroneo.
It comes at a time when restaurants are still struggling to stay afloat. A recent Restaurants Canada report shows that although customer spending is up 10 per cent from last year, half of Canadian restaurants are at risk of going under. In Ottawa, that figure is closer to 56 per cent.
Cotroneo says many restaurants still haven’t recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, and many business owners are still paying back pandemic loans on top of their other taxes, fees, and increased costs.
“There’s going be some businesses that are going to have to be sitting there saying is it going to be worth the effort? No lunch crowd and full fees?” he said. “My patio fees are probably going to be up around $6,000 for the season.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, city council voted to waive patio fees to give struggling restaurants a chance to drum up business during the summer months. Fees returned this year, but reduced by 50 per cent, as part of what the city called a “phased-in approach.”
Cotroneo added that Ottawa’s changing downtown is also having an impact.
“When you couple that with the federal government pulling out of these downtown buildings and people working from home, everybody’s lunches are devastated,” he said. “I’m still closed Monday lunches.”
The 2024 draft budget includes $4.6 billion in operating expenses, covered primarily by tax increases, but nearly $1 billion will be raised through increased fees and service charges.