Thinking outside the pub

4 12 2011

I love the patio scene.

Given the choice of drinking a post-ride beer inside the pub, or outside on its patio, I’ll always open for the open skies. Especially now that many pubs have banned smoking from their outdoor seating areas; it’s about time.

But on Dec. 1? When the temperature is barely above freezing?

Yet that was our only option after a brisk trail ride the other night. And as we were the first customers to take the outside option, the heaters first had to fire up.

Riding buddy Dan, staying warm and getting thirsty on the outdoor patio

But once the beer and nachos arrived, all was good.

Patios in this neck of the woods are hamstrung by a ridiculous array of arcane city bylaws and liquor regulations. They have to conform to certain sizes, they have to have a physical barrier to the adjoining sidewalk, they often have to close early to appease nearby neighbours.

It all adds up to a rather inadequate patio supply, especially when the weather is more conducive. And often those patios are lacking in atmosphere; sure it’s nice to be outside, but who wants to look at a parking lot.

The interaction with the world passing by is one of the best things about the patio scene. It’s one of my favourite things about Europe, where every cafĂ©, restaurant and pub has tables and chairs spilling onto the sidewalk out front. Sure, the sidewalks are usually wider in cities like Paris, Berlin and Barcelona than standard North American sidewalks, but that hasn’t stopped a city like Portland, Oregon from developing a lively patio culture. There, the Pearl District is alive with outdoor pubs and eateries, and even more established parts of the city, like Nob Hill, have plenty of patios despite narrow sidewalks.

City governments just have to loosen up a bit, realize that an open beer on a sidewalk table isn’t going to turn innocent passersby into raging drunkards.