Outdoor patios multiplying under new COVID circuit breaker

Earls Kitchen + Bar patio … completed on March 30, 2021 just as indoor dining restrictions came into effect (for 3 weeks)

We can expect to see more outdoor patios at restaurants and bars in BC as the provincial government yesterday (March 29, 2021) announced a “three-week circuit breaker begins now to bend the curve, protect people.” Specifically, “For restaurants, bars and pubs, all food and liquor-serving premises must only provide take-out or delivery service. Dine-in service is prohibited, except for outdoor patios. People dining on patios should do so with their immediate household or core bubble.” These businesses have been struggling and adapting under very difficult circumstances, trying to serve their customers and stay afloat.

But more outdoor patios means more gas-fired patio heaters. Fossil-fueled. This predicament highlights the tradeoffs being faced. CBC pointed out that heating an 800-square-foot patio all winter causes the same emissions as a car circling the earth 3 times.

Vancouver is among the many jurisdictions around the world that have declared a climate emergency. That requires all hands on deck to reduce greenhouse emissions rapidly, with developed countries expected to achieve a 50% reduction of their emissions by 2030 as part of efforts to avert a planetary climate catastrophe. More and more countries (including Canada) are aiming for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

By all means, these businesses need support!

We urge patio-users to at least keep an eye on the patio heaters and communicate with restaurant/bar managers to ensure our precious carbon budget is not being wasted by leaving the heaters burning even while no one is present. And while you’re out there with your “core bubble” perhaps consider zipping up or buttoning up a bit and see how it goes, before firing up the gas heater.

Once the pandemic has settled down, perhaps active campaign advocacy groups like the Sustainabiliteens (@sustainteens) (which organizes the regular “Climate Strikes”) and Extinction Rebellion will have a good look at this issue. As far as we know, there has been zero progress on reducing the use of gas-fired patio heaters in Vancouver over the past decade.

CityHallWatch has covered this topic of patio heaters before.

Outdoor patio heaters defy Vancouver’s Greenest City dreams: Many tons of carbon emitted each year. Change needed. Leaders needed! (15-Mar-2015)

Space heaters, open flames at Telus Garden restaurant. Ignored in Greenest City plans? (5-Nov-2015)

Vancouver launches “extended patio (heater) hours”: A chance for public attention to gas-burning heaters and GHG emissions (15-Nov-2015)

CBC has had a fair amount of coverage too.

How to keep warm on a patio without heating the planet (15-Oct-2020)

What the widespread use of outdoor heaters means for Toronto’s carbon footprint this winter (4-Nov-2020)
(Heating an 800-square-foot patio all winter causes the same emissions as a car circling the earth 3 times)

Cold comfort: Why demand for patio heaters is on the rise (6-Sep-2020)
(Restaurants, bars and breweries are also looking for more permanent solutions for their patios)

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