LTC gives go-ahead to make Moby’s Pub patio permanent

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Salt Spring Islanders really like the separate patio area at Moby’s Pub. 

That much could be gleaned from the close to 200 letters of support received for making what was a temporary measure during the COVID-19 pandemic a permanent one. At a March 22 meeting, members of the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee (LTC) voted in favour of allowing the pub at 124 Upper Ganges Rd. to make its secondary patio a permanent fixture. 

Moby’s was one of many establishments across B.C. operating a patio using a Temporary Expanded Service Area (TESA) licence, due to expire June 1. TESA allowed businesses to serve food and alcohol in outdoor spaces, keeping their businesses running during pandemic restrictions.

Pub owner Dale Schweighardt acknowledged he was a little emotional presenting to the LTC, given the effects the pandemic has had on his business over the past two years.

“This TESA patio singlehandedly saved Moby’s during the pandemic,” he said.  

The hospitality industry is one of the sectors most affected by government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since a state of emergency was declared in B.C. in March 2020, restaurants and bars have faced closures, reduced capacity and requirements to stop liquor service early and to close early. Establishments and their staff also took on the responsibility of enforcing vaccine passports, mandatory masks and physical distancing as well as developing safety plans. 

During a tumultuous two years, with restrictions changing in response to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, some establishments had to issue layoffs while others closed their doors indefinitely. Others had to pivot several times, switching to take-out and delivery to keep afloat or opening other revenue streams.

In addition to these challenges, Moby’s also dealt with a temporary closure during the 2021 holidays as COVID cases were identified among staff.

“​​Throughout the pandemic we have made a dedicated effort to follow public health orders and restrictions to the letter even when it was unpopular to do so,” a Moby’s Pub Facebook post stated at the time. 

While the business existed quite profitably prior to the pandemic, Schweighardt detailed the many costs of doing business that are substantially increased today: “Expenses such as payroll, general taxes, the EHT health tax the province has added to businesses, fuel prices driving higher costs for food and supplies, supply shortages, employee shortages, the very real costs of having to provide housing for our staff in our community.”

He added that “The ability for us to survive our unknown future, in my opinion, depends greatly upon the approval of this patio. The comfort and confidence of dining outdoors, the opportunity to serve more guests more efficiently, these are what will make it easier for us to survive in the future.” 

Trust planner Geordie Gordon noted some concerns were raised about the hours of operation at a public meeting held on the application, yet no one indicated they were opposed to the permanent change. Schweighardt said concerns were addressed very directly at the meeting. The patio will only be open to 10 p.m., he said, with the intention of only having live music until 8:30 p.m. and not having music on the patio every single night.

“I believe that each of the people that did ask questions and had concerns left the open house wishing us well on our application,” he said. 

Trustee Laura Patrick said she hopes there will be an improvement to the ambiance of the patio, with plants and other things, over time.

“I know what our businesses have gone through in the last two years on this island in the pandemic. I trust the applicant, as they learn to use this new space, would want to make it look better,” she said.

While the temporary patio was assembled quickly, Schweighardt said some investments will be made to repair and dress the space up more once the patio is approved. 

Following the meeting, Moby’s Pub posted to Facebook thanking people for the “tremendous amount of support” as well as trustees “for the approval which is greatly appreciated and accepted with responsibility.” 

The LTC voted to amend Moby’s existing development permit and forward the application, with their support, to the provincial Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) for final approval. 

This is the second patio opened during the pandemic on Salt Spring that will become permanent. Ciderworks at 529 Fulford-Ganges Rd. was also operating a patio off of their tasting room under a TESA. The LTC approved Ciderworks’ application on Feb. 15 and recommended it be forwarded to the LCRB.

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