The City of Vernon is looking at closing two blocks on Main Street to allow for restaurants and retailers to expand patio and storefront services into the streets.
The idea, proposed by Coun. Dalvir Nahal, would see 30th Avenue (Main Street) closed to traffic between 29th and 31st streets – similar to how the City of Kelowna closed Bernard Avenue last year to make room for more physical distancing for businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to closing the road to traffic between the J-DON Japanese restaurant and Nolan’s Pharmasave, Nahal said she’d like to see the City of Vernon offer up chairs and tables often used at the recreation centre.
On the heels of the province’s move to ban indoor dining at restaurants, which has since been extended until after May 24, Nahal said some restaurants may not have access to outdoor furniture or even have the space to expand, so this would be one way the city can support its local business community.
But first, city staff will produce a report for council to review at the May 10 regular meeting detailing the ins and outs of closing the street from 9 a.m. Thursday through 9 a.m. Monday morning with a pilot start date slated for May 13.
“I am a big believer that if you build it, they will come,” Nahal told her council colleagues during the special meeting April 20.
If passed, barricades will block the streets off between J-DON and Nolan’s, and businesses that wish to participate can spill out onto the streets for four days a week.
This isn’t the first time the idea of closing Main Street to traffic has come up.
Nahal, who has advocated for something like this for more than a year now, said she had reached out to the Downtown Vernon Association (DVA) to engage with its members, but the response rate was low.
This time around, Nahal received a letter of support from the DVA but that left Coun. Kari Gares concerned with the lack of consultation with the businesses within the subject area.
“I’m not here to throw the DVA under the bus and I’m grateful for this letter,” Nahal said. “But it really does irk me that they’re asking us to do the consultation when this is what the DVA is supposed to do. This is their moment to shine.”
Coun. Akbal Mund said he’s always been keen on the idea and it’s something he brought up himself in his time as mayor.
Council members, while all supportive, discussed the details at length before unanimously voting in favour of city staff to prepare a report.
City staff will also examine the associated costs to determine if it is more cost-effective to leave the road closed permanently during the pilot project that is slated to run until Labour Day weekend.