Sidewalk cafes could be returning to Grand Bend

People come to Grand Bend for the beach but soon they'll be able to find out what else there is to do with their smart phones. -Heather Wright Photo

Tourists heading to Grand Bend may soon get to take in the view while having some lunch as the municipality considers allowing restaurants to have sidewalk cafes again.
-Heather Wright Photo

Beachgoers may be able to grab a bite to eat in Grand Bend on the sidewalk this summer.

Three years ago, Lambton Shores council put a moratorium on sidewalk cafes after spending millions of dollars to rejuvenate the streetscape.

But Jim Davis of J.D’s Summerhouse Café wants to put three tables outside of his Main Street West restaurant. “When we were redoing the street in Grand Bend and we thought we would leave it to see how it worked,” says Davis. “I think the street looks great; I think we need more people on it.”

Davis says the province has changed liquor laws to make it easier to have sidewalk cafes and municipalities are encouraging them. “We’ve put a moratorium on them while other areas are rushing to get them.

“Restaurants revitalize areas. They are real draws. They have economic spin offs to other retailers.”

Davis presented his plan for his own restaurant and asked council to lift its moratorium.

Councilor John Russell says it’s time to end the moratorium. “We want to open it up. We want to take advantage of the millions of dollars we spent on it. The moratorium was stalling…we don’t need to stall anymore,” he says. “We need to make our streets lively. Public spaces are where people want to be.”

While all of council except for Mayor Bill Weber agreed to reconsider the moratorium on sidewalk cafes, council is not ready to open things wide up just yet.

“This moratorium is bigger than just this proposal,” says Councilor Doug Bonesteel. He suggested the municipal planner canvass downtown to see what other restaurants might be interested in opening a sidewalk café.

Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Davis Dagg agreed saying she could not support lifting the moratorium without some structure.

Councilors asked staff to have the report complete for the next council meeting “so the businesses can make some money this summer” if the moratorium is lifted, according to Dagg.

– Heather Wright