A tax on summer: Atlantic Canadian restaurants grapple with patio permit expenses

Atlantic Canadian SMEs pay an average of $995  in summer patio permitting fees 

Halifax, May 16, 2024 – An Atlantic Municipal survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) found that six out of 10 small businesses do not think their municipality prioritizes small business needs and issues. This sentiment is particularly noticeable during the spring months when restaurant owners begin the process of renewing their patio permits, only to be confronted with the harsh truth of the average patio cost in Atlantic Canada, which stands at a daunting $995.

Sidewalk patios present a viable avenue for small businesses to expand their operations and attract patrons, particularly during peak tourism months. However, in 2023, the cost of a sidewalk patio in Atlantic Canada ranged from $0 (no fees) to $2,690, highlighting the inconsistency in permitting fees across municipalities.

"Often times, small businesses use patios as a way to significantly increase their seating during the summer and capitalize on the tourism season. However, when a patio costs $995 in upfront permitting fees, it's hard for small businesses to truly capitalize on the much-needed revenue from summertime patios,"  said Alex Oulton, Policy Analyst at CFIB. “It is unfair that to be able to take advantage of the summer, these small businesses have to pay up to $2,690. At the end of the day, it's a tax on summer.” 

During a period marked by escalating operational expenses, such as insurance, wages, and fuel,    patio permit fees will only add to the burden undertaken by hospitality businesses in Atlantic Canada. Further, with domestic demand impacting 60 % of small businesses in the hospitality sector, sidewalk patios are necessary to attract customers.  

"The hospitality industry was among the hardest hit during the pandemic and continues to bear the brunt of challenging economic times," emphasized Oulton. "A terrific way for all of our favourite restaurants and cafes to draw in more business, especially during peak tourism months, are sidewalk patios. Reducing costs for small businesses wanting to add patios is a great way for municipalities to provide direct support." 

Considering these challenges, CFIB recommends that municipalities in Atlantic Canada reduce patio permit costs, or as seen during the pandemic, completely waive these fees. Such initiatives not only alleviate the financial burden on local restaurants but also ensure they can make the most of the summer months, welcoming locals and tourist alike.

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Duncan Robertson, CFIB

Atlantic Municipal Survey: The survey period was from June 28 to July 20, 2023. The number of respondents was 370. For comparison purposes, the margin of error for a probability sample of the same size is +/-5.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. 

Monthly Business Barometer: April findings are based on 657 responses from a stratified random sample of CFIB members to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received from April 2 to the 17. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 3.8 per cent 19 times in 20. 

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses with 97,000 members across every industry and region, including 10,200 in Atlantic Canada. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at cfib.ca.