By the time you read this, Windsor City Council will have mitigated another embarrassing moment, the re-institution of onerous patio fees imposed on small restaurants encroaching on the city right of way.
At this writing, negotiations were taking place between City Councillors and the Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), led by Larry Horwitz, Chairperson of the Downtown Windsor BIA, to reverse or modify the baffling patio fees decision Council made at a dysfunctional December 21, 2015 budget session.
To save a paltry $90,000, a bleary-eyed Council voted to re-install outdoor patio fees. These had been waived for several years prior, to assist struggling restaurateurs, and encourage a cultural ambiance in the core hospitality districts. The majority of the sidewalk cafes are downtown, with lesser numbers in Walkerville, on Erie Street and Ottawa Street.
Horwitz expressed optimism to me that something would be done to lower and/or phase in the fees and live up to a Council promise a year earlier to keep the status quo until 2018.
“I feel really good about it,” says Horwitz about negotiations with South Windsor Councillor Fred Francis. “We’re starting to get closer to a realistic deal.”
Downtown Councillor Rino Bortolin submitted the motion to revisit the patio decision, made unbeknown to some besieged Councillors blinded by a document-and-binder blizzard in an omnibus resolution tabled by Mayor Drew Dilkens in the late stages of a noon-to-almost midnight budget session.
The pushback was immediate, mostly emanating from the 45 establishments with patios downtown.
“The merchants are really vocal . . . there’s a lot of anger,” Horwitz states of the fees that include a $212 application tariff and a two-tier encroachment levy, $5.90 per square foot for downtown patios, and $4.66 cents for those in Walkerville, Erie and Ottawa. The price in non-BIA districts was set at $3.37.
At the March 7 Council meeting, a motion by Councillor Fred Francis was approved to increase patio fees by .50 cents per square foot per year starting this year with a cap of $3 per square foot flat fee in 2021.
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