Coombs may have goats on the roof, but Ucluelet could soon have bacon on the roof and that’ll smell better.
The Blue Room is looking to expand its seating capacity by opening up its roof for diners.
The upper-deck seating area would be accessed by a staircase that would be built at the front of the 1627 Peninsula Road building that sits across from Ucluelet’s Co-op and downtown visitor centre. The restaurant also plans to add roughly 28 sq. metres to its indoor seating area by expanding into an already connected space next door.
Ucluelet’s municipal council reviewed and approved a development permit during March 14’s regular meeting but expressed concern over the potential impact the restaurant’s boosted capacity could bring to the area’s parking congestion.
“Obviously we can’t hamper development or success in local businesses, but it’s one of those dreams of finding that magical parkade in the downtown core,” said Coun. Mayco Noel.
“As tourism continues to grow in the community, everybody complains about the parking. It’s a good problem when the restaurants are busy. Perhaps, some of the merchants there can work as a group to figure out where they’re going to park their vehicles during the day, just to ensure they’re being conscientious of tourists in the area.”
The restaurant’s current CS1 zoning mandates one parking space must be added for ever 30 sq. metres added, according to a report submitted to council by Ucluelet’s Planner 1 John Towgood.
“This proposed addition indicates a 28.3 sqm of additional gross floor area and would require one parking space or the applicant may pay a cash-in-lieu to the amount of $8,000,” Towgood wrote.
“It should be noted that the upper deck is not required to supply parking as only areas within a building are calculated in gross floor area.”
Mayor Dianne St. Jacques suggested the upper-deck could potentially add roughly 40 new seats to the restaurant’s capacity.
“I was under the understanding that, in a restaurant situation, the parking was per-seat. Has that changed,” she asked.
Towgood responded that different zones have different requirements and a per-seat approach can be tricky to regulate. He added patrons would likely either all be inside or outside.
“On rainy days, everyone’s inside and on sunny days everyone’s outside,” he said adding outside seating spaces are grey areas that don’t impact parking or washroom requirements.
St. Jacques suggested the additional seats would lead to additional staff and wondered if staff parking had been considered.
Towgood responded that it hadn’t yet, but that parking would be brought up again during the restaurant’s building permit application stage. He said the current review was just to consider whether the development would fit in with the form and character of the neighbourhood.
St. Jacques expressed support for the expansion idea.
“I think the plan looks great and it’s really encouraging to see local businesses reinvesting in their business and trying to make things better,” she said.
During the meeting’s public question period, Ucluelet local James Clark expressed frustration over the idea that a restaurant could significantly increase its seating capacity without adding parking or washrooms.
“You can’t just double your floor-room and expect it to be okay,” he said. “I don’t mind anybody expanding their business and growing and doing better…I’m just looking at the nuts and bolts of this and I don’t think that the nuts and bolts of this have been looked at properly.”
Another local, Laurie Skene, advised council to keep in mind that the area’s already sparse parking could get sparser if a potential microbrewery moves ahead next door. Towgood told the Westerly he rechecked the district’s zoning bylaws after the meeting and confirmed the Blue Room’s parking requirements could be based on sq. footage rather than seats.
“One per four seats is the basic restaurant criteria. That’s the base count. There’s an exception for the Village Square, where it’s the lesser of one per four seats or one per 30 metres of gross floor area,” he said. He added outdoor seating areas do not count towards parking requirements anywhere in town.
“Those aren’t ever considered in the gross floor area and they’re not considered for parking…It would kill a business,” he said.
“You want to encourage business and you want to encourage a thriving economy. A really important planning concept is, you want to get people out on the streets and to show vibrancy…It’s a really important aspect of what makes a thriving, busy looking, place that you want to get out of your car and walk around.”
With the development permit approved, Towgood said the restaurant’s subsequent building permit application would not likely need council’s permission to go ahead.
“The bylaws are written,” he said. “It just needs to comply with the bylaws.”