The popular open-air food court that operated in Duncan’s Station Street Common last summer will be returning this year, but with a few changes.
Amanda Vance, executive director of the Downtown Duncan BIA which operates the food court, said there will be some modifications to the venue this year, including having concrete tables that will be in place 24/7 for the season instead of the small, portable tables that were used last year that had to be removed every night and put back every morning.
The food court was established in downtown Duncan during the summer months last year to assist local restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly to address restrictions on customer numbers in restaurants brought on by the health crisis.
With the pandemic still ongoing and with restaurants still dealing with health protocols that severely limit their business as the warmer months begin, Vance said the association is working hard to have the food court open again by sometime in mid June or early July.
She said the DDBIA is currently applying for a number of grants to help pay for the venue this year, and the association was successful in acquiring a $10,000 grant from the City of Duncan’s COVID-19 grant program at the council meeting on April 19 for the concrete tables.
But one councillor raised a number of concerns about the plan at the meeting. Coun. Bob Brooke said he believes placing concrete tables in Station Street Common would be a huge intrusion on the use of the green space.
He said he liked the layout last year with the little tables and chairs that made the area look like a bistro.
“It was very attractive and very well run, and while I understand that it takes a lot of effort every day to put the tables away and return them the next day, I think the city will incur a lot of cost mowing and weeding around these concrete tables,” Brooke said. “I just don’t think it’s particularly attractive and the concrete tables limit the use of the property.”
Vance said the goal this year is to cover seating for restaurants and takeouts downtown 24/7, instead of just during the hours that the tables were in place, as was the case last year.
CAO Peter de Verteuil added that in discussions with Vance and the DDBIA, it was also pointed out that there were a lot of costs related to the constant moving of the tables and the oversight of the venue and, while the DDBIA has applied for more grant funding from other sources to meet labour costs this year, there’s no guarantee that the applications will be successful.
He also said that it won’t be much extra effort for park staff to mow and weed around the concrete tables.
Coun. Jenni Capps said granting the funding for the concrete tables would be a good use of the money. She said people are already asking if and when the food court will be open this year.
“The food court hit a home run last year,” Capps said. “I’ve received so many positive comments about it.”
The motion to grant the DDBIA funding for the tables passed, with Brooke opposed.
For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.