RED DEER -- The Ross Street Patio in downtown Red Deer will remain open this winter as part of a pilot program.

The patio was scheduled for seasonal removal earlier this month. However, after a group of local businesses sent a letter to city council requesting an extension of the patio season, the city will be exploring a winter patio pilot project.

“We know downtown businesses are struggling as a result of the pandemic, and we want to continue our support to help them mitigate the negative affects of COVID-19,” said Bobby-Jo Stannard, Community Development Superintendent.

Stannard said the main reason multiple local businesses requested an extension of the patio season was to gain additional capacity.

“Extra space provided by the patio allows nearby food and beverage businesses to expand and increase their capacity, while adhering to safety guidelines and restrictions.”

Both Calgary and Edmonton have also extended their seasonal patio programs.

“We are in line with other municipalities in Alberta in trying to help support our local businesses.”

The winter patio pilot project involves a partnership with these businesses that includes maintenance, snow and ice control, litter collection, and programming.

Downtown businesses with seasonal summer patios will be contacted by the city regarding the option to renew their permit for the winter months.

An evaluation will be done at the end of spring to determine the success of the program.