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Birchwood hits the street
Downtown coffee shop first to receive patio grant money from city

Jessica Davey-Quantick
Northern News Services
Friday, July 21, 2017

The first chairs hit the new patio at Birchwood Coffee Ko on Tuesday.

NNSL photograph

Birchwood Coffee Ko owners Patrick Scott and Jawah Bercier sit at one of the tables on their newly installed patio. Birchwood is the first downtown business to receive a grant of up to $10,000 from the city to construct a patio. - Jessica Davey-Quantick/NNSL photo

Owner Patrick Scott just wishes people didn't need to wear mittens to sit in them, with a cold snap hitting the city Monday bringing highs in the teens.

The patio is the first to be constructed thanks to a city grant, which was approved last month.

It gives downtown businesses up to $10,000 to cover the installation cost of street-side seating. Birchwood's patio will be open until Sept. 30.

"It'll warm up again eventually, hopefully before the end of September," said Scott.

He and his business-partner and daughter Jawah Bercier opened Birchwood last summer. Scott says he had considered the idea of a patio before but dismissed it because of the cost involved.

"So when they offered the grant I decided why not," he said. "I think the city's made a good decision here, and I certainly appreciate the support."

He declined to share with Yellowknifer exactly how much his patio cost.

Patrons also enjoy a view of the Safe Harbour Day Shelter right next door but Scott isn't phased by the neighbours.

"A lot of people say a lot of negative things about the day shelter, the worst thing I could say is that sometimes their language is not very good to listen to," he said. "Occasionally somebody comes along, we have a good chat, they respect that we're running a business, and they leave."

On June 19, council unanimously passed the motion to provide the grants for the installation of patios in their first year. The money comes out of the Downtown Development Reserve Fund, an account topped up each year by 25 per cent of the parking-meter revenue the city collects. According to the city, the fund had a balance of $651,115 as of May 31.

The fund has not been used for any project or provided any incentives to downtown businesses since 2014.

Between 2004 and 2013 however, the city doled out $218,400 in grants for facade and site improvement projects.

At the municipal services committee meeting on June 19, administration recommended council use the anticipated annual income for the reserve fund - up to $150,000 annually - to support downtown businesses.

"I think it's really good for the downtown area, and frankly I suspect it will be good for business," said Scott, who had to get his design approved by the city and will be reimbursed for the cost of his patio, including the temporary sidewalk. He designed the boardwalk in four-foot sections so they could easily be removed and stored until next summer.

"They won't break my back taking them out," he told Yellowknifer. "It makes it more appealing for people in the summertime to be able to sit outside."

So far, Birchwood Coffee Ko the only business to take the city up on their offer.

"We've had one application so far, and we're currently working with a couple of other businesses in town," stated Stephanie Vandeputte, director of communications and economic development with the city via e-mail.

She declined to disclose which businesses were contemplating patios.

Downtown sidewalk patios are permitted for restaurants bordered by 54 Street, Franklin Avenue, 53 Street, 49 Avenue, 44 Street and 52 Avenue. Franklin Avenue won't be getting it's own patios however because of the high volume of foot traffic through the area. The city has also waived the application and the seasonal license fee for patios this year.

"We think these can make massive contributions to how welcoming our city is and to enhancing street life in the downtown and elsewhere," senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett told the municipal services committee on June 19.

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