Learn why Chefs are setting up in Guelph.
Summer in Guelph is an exciting time. In the downtown core the streets are bustling with people enjoying the great dining experiences Guelph offers on seasonal outdoor patios that enhance visits to the city’s historic downtown for locals and tourists alike.
Restaurants, cafés, and more are able to apply for an on-street patio for outdoor service between April 1 and Oct. 31. This opportunity has expanded some existing patios, but many established outdoor serving areas for the first time.
Guelph’s hugely successful seasonal patio program was implemented as an emergency relief measure during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic then later endorsed by Guelph City Council as a three-year pilot (2021-2023). The patio program lets businesses apply for expanded outdoor space for multiple years.
“We needed to support small businesses as quickly as we could in such a difficult time,” says Nicole Kupferschmidt, tourism programs officer.
Through the program, patios are permitted across the city but most are concentrated in Guelph’s downtown core.
“We heard from businesses that they may not have weathered the storm of pandemic lockdowns without this program,” says Alex Jaworiwsky, the City’s manager of Tourism and Destination Development.
“And there is a lot of optimism about the future. All the patios bring such character and vibrancy and charm to our streets, which are filled with beautiful heritage buildings.”
Although first implemented to address the shifting needs due to evolving pandemic health measures, there have proven to be additional benefits.
“This program offers a great opportunity for businesses without an option to have a patio otherwise,” says Kupferschmidt.
“They bring such life and fun and it’s great to see lights and people in our downtown.”
Bryan Steele, owner of La Reina, a Mexican restaurant in downtown Guelph, says the patio program provided new opportunities to reach more people.
“It has allowed La Reina to expand its customer base. Last summer, when there was no indoor dining, we had people visiting from other cities because of Guelph’s patio program.”
The patio program sustained La Reina during lockdowns and Steele wants to see it continue.
“It is a huge draw to the downtown. I have been in Guelph most of my life and I’ve never seen the downtown this busy.”