City reaches out to restaurants, stores for creative reopening plans

Restaurant and store owners with creative reopening ideas should get in touch, the City of Yellowknife said on Monday while outlining its approach to pandemic recovery.

The City has no control over pandemic-related restrictions, which are set by the territorial government. Staff say they are working out how to reopen facilities and help businesses, too.

Sheila Bassi-Kellett, the City’s senior administrator, said staff spent time with NWT government environmental health officers trying to establish what needs to be in place at each City facility.


“There is still a lot to do before we can reopen many of our facilities again,” she concluded in a briefing for city councillors on Monday.

However, the City says it is trying to “shift gears very quickly” now that the territory has entered phase one of its recovery plan, which allows for slightly larger outdoor gatherings and the reopening of some businesses.

“Where we can, we want to look at some new approaches and improvements where possible,” Bassi-Kellett said.

One of those new approaches involves working with restaurants and retailers who need to find creative ways of getting their products to residents. Restaurants, for example, cannot offer any dine-in service until phase two of recovery – expected in the back half of June – and even then, many restrictions will still apply.

The City already has a program designed to help downtown restaurants set up patios by taking over sidewalk space near their business. That program provides grants of up to $10,000 to help cover the cost of setting up a patio space. The NWT government has said it will work to accommodate patios as best it can, and as soon as it can, within the recovery plan.


Bassi-Kellett said the City was open to finding other ways restaurant and store owners can use outdoor public spaces this summer.

“There may be other restaurants and retailers that want to think about innovative approaches. We really want to talk with them,” she told councillors.

“We have no idea what all of those options might be and we think there are some very creative people.

“Come talk to us about spreading out onto a sidewalk or accessing a public space to be able to maximize who can access their establishment.”


More outdoor rinks

Bassi-Kellett said free downtown parking will remain until such time as the majority of workers are back in Yellowknife’s office buildings, which are predominantly populated by NWT government staff.

The territorial government says its non-essential staff will begin returning to work in phase two, though some staff say managers have told them the wait could be significantly longer.

Meanwhile, the City is promoting the availability of free wifi access next to City Hall in Somba K’e Park while the library waits to fully reopen.

Green cart pickup will resume on June 1, the City announced last week. Playgrounds owned by the City reopened on May 16.

In the longer term, the City is examining how to compensate for what could be a lengthy wait before facilities like the Multiplex reopen.

Bassi-Kellett said limits on the reopening of arenas could “really impact” sports like hockey, which have already been told they must wait until all restrictions are lifted before resuming. Affected sports’ governing bodies have said they are looking at ways to convince the chief public health officer to let them resume earlier.

“We’ve got to find new ways of doing things. We know it’s been very dismaying to a lot of people in Yellowknife,” said Bassi-Kellett of the impact on the indoor versions of hockey, broomball and curling.

“We’ll be looking at building as extensive a network of outdoor rinks as we can,” she said of the coming winter.

“We know the season is a lot shorter but it is something we will look at, to provide that alternative.”

Swimming pools are currently earmarked for reopening in phase three of the NWT’s plan, which is set to commence once an expected second wave of Covid-19 has been and gone in southern Canada. That could be late this fall.

Even then, Bassi-Kellett said restrictions could prove unworkable.

“If we’re only able to have 10 people in a swimming pool, for example, we’ll need to think long and hard about whether it makes financial sense to open,” she told councillors.

There is no word on when Yellowknife’s dump may resume full operation and regular opening hours.

When that does happen, Bassi-Kellett said some of the dump’s current working practices may be kept.

A single public drop-off area, she said, “helps control access and ensure waste is being organized and sorted in a good, operational way.”

“When we get back to full access, there is going to be a very good system in place.”