The See You on the Patio program will wrap up its second season tonight.
The program started on Canada Day and ran for 10 weeks throughout the summer. It allowed restaurants to expand their patios, artists to share their work, and locals and tourists to enjoy walking along Mississaga Street without vehicular traffic.
Michael Fredson, chair of the Downtown Orillia Management Board (DOMB), says there were “hits and misses” with the event this summer.
“The general public did seem to enjoy it,” he said. “It also waned off a bit throughout the summer.”
Fredson says the program was most successful during the Night Markets that ran July 8 and 22 and Aug. 12.
“It was busy. People were going back and forth, and the streets were full,” he said. “Those were definitely the highlight nights for the season.”
The biggest challenge for the program was the way it got started. Originally, DOMB members voted to eliminate the weekly program, opting instead to host the event only during sidewalk sales, the summer block party and the classic car show. City council later gave approval to the return of the popular program for the summer.
“The back and forth and up and down made it challenging to plan it,” Fredson says. “We didn’t really have a lot of time to get things lined up and planned for.”
He was hoping to have more vendors on the street during the program this year.
“Business is different now, post-COVID,” he said. “Vendors that we used to use are closed down, vendors who used to come up don’t travel as much, and everything was open this summer.”
Some vendors elected to attend other community events this summer, while others faced supply challenges.
“There were just so many changes post-COVID,” Fredson said. “It was way more of a challenge than it had been in the past.”
Members of the DOMB will be polled over the next few weeks to gauge the success of the event for each individual business. Fredson says the DOMB will take the poll results, meet with the city, and discuss the future of the event.
Samir Hanna, owner of Sanafir Restaurant, says the program went well this summer for his restaurant.
“My sales were almost doubled up,” he said. “With what we’ve gone through in the last few years, it really helped.”
He says the weekly event brought a positive vibe to the downtown core.
“You could see the joy and smiles on people’s faces,” he said. “It changed the atmosphere. People really enjoyed their time here.”
Hanna hopes to see the program back next year for a third year, but he also says there is room for improvement.
“It needs a little more organization with shutting down the street,” he said. “It could be due to a lack of staffing or volunteers, but next year we need to see everything running a little bit more efficient.”
He also wants to see the program running next year on both Friday and Saturday nights.
Coinciding with the See You on the Patio program were the weekly Art Walks on Peter Street South.
Molly Farquharson, owner of Hibernation Arts, says the walks were a little slower this year because of the return of community events.
“We have more competition,” she said. “People still come down with their dogs and have actually bought stuff.”
She says the event could be more successful with more live music on the street and with additional city support.
“I think there are a lot of options,” she said. “We want to explore those and get some support for what we decide on.”
Farquharson hopes to see the Art Walks become a bigger part of the See You on the Patio program.
“There is an amazing art scene here,” she said. “It should have more support because we are unique in that way.”
She doesn’t believe the program needs to be extended to two nights a week next year.
“I think one night is enough,” she said. “That’s the general feeling from the people who sell on the street.”
Tonight’s See You on the Patio event kicks off at 5 p.m. and runs until 11 p.m. The Art Walk will wrap up when it gets dark outside.