A culinary street patio program in Thunder Bay will deliver a measure of relief to local dining establishments severely impacted by indoor gathering restrictions caused by the pandemic.
Restaurants across the city have lost millions of dollars in sales and more than 90 per cent of culinary employees having been furloughed, prompting the Waterfront District BIA to launch the StrEATery project in partnership with the City of Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) and Tourism Thunder Bay.
The initiative is aimed at establishing a new outdoor dining area that's compliant with Ontario’s COVID requirements.
Twenty downtown restaurants will have access to their own outdoor space for patios and provide seating for 160 patrons. It's expected to generate $1.9 million in sales for these establishments and allow 60 to 100 local culinary staff to return to work and also create three full-time seasonal jobs.
To kickoff the project, the Thunder Bay CEDC is contributing a grant of $40,000 to support the project. The money is coming from the commission's Economic Development Reserve Fund.
The grant will be earmarked for things like stone barriers, planters, COVID awareness signage and picnic tables, hiring security, purchasing shade/rain umbrellas, insurance, washroom rentals and PPE.
“These funds will also help us offset some of the significant costs the BIA has incurred with maintaining the space (staffing, public restrooms, marketing, cleaning and security)," said BIA board chair Jim Comuzzi in a news release.
"We are looking forward to working with the community partners, over the summer and fall, to showcase what our downtown North Core has to offer as well as its future potential.”
A side benefit of the StrEATery project is that it is a pilot project for a pedestrian promenade within Port Arthur’s downtown core.
“The current situation has impacted the hospitality and tourism industry most significantly,” said Tourism Thunder Bay manager Paul Pepe.
“The StrEATery project will be a key contributor to the recovery of the Waterfront District’s culinary scene and Thunder Bay’s tourism industry. Tourism Thunder Bay has also established a pop-up Pagoda in partnership with the project to help stimulate greater community and domestic visitor engagement in supporting visitor attractions across the city.”
Eric Zakrewski, CEO of the commission, said this is a "timely opportunity" to help 20 businesses get back on their feet to generate revenue as gathering restrictions start to lift.
"This investment puts people back to work immediately and will inform the City as to the larger and longer term potential of the StrEatery concept.”