The See You on the Patio program made its return to downtown Orillia on Friday night.
The Common Stove co-owner Simon MacRae says he’s "delighted" to see the return of the popular program. To mark the occasion, the popular downtown eatery was serving a special feature of seafood towers.
“This is sort of the most vibrant thing that the city has done downtown,” he said. “We are really excited to see it back.”
MacRae says the atmosphere in downtown Orillia is different during the program.
“It tends to be a lot more cosmopolitan,” he said. “There are a lot more families, a lot more tourists, and it seems to be a more positive and open vibe than it normally is.”
With a larger group of people downtown during the program, MacRae says it feels safer downtown. He wishes the program would not only operate on Friday nights but also on Saturdays.
“I’m delighted to see that it’s happening in some form,” he said. “It’s a better thing for tourists who are seeing this town for the first time, it’s better for families living in town, and ultimately I think it’s better for every business downtown.”
Now that the COVID-19 pandemic threat has faded, MacRae expects a wider variety of people to attend the program.
“There will be a lot more people who are out and about,” he said. “I think people are ready to return to their normal life.”
Stephanie Duff was downtown Orillia on Friday night and says the See You on the Patio program always makes for a "lovely" evening.
“I’m excited and happy to see it’s back,” she said. “I think it’s beneficial for the downtown core.”
Duff says she gets a feeling of nostalgia when attending the weekly event.
“As a kid walking these streets for sidewalk sales and the rest of it, I never get tired of being able to walk up the middle of the street,” she said. “There’s a cool vibe that comes with it and I think it’s important to do.”
While she says she can see the argument on both sides, Duff believes that during the summer months the City of Orillia should create more opportunities for the program.
“I love to see the amount of people that come out,” she said. “There is something about a warm summer night where you get that different vibe.”
Sweet Time Bake Shoppe owner Victoria Ignoto says the See You on the Patio program worked well for her business during the pandemic despite being located up the street from the main shopping hub.
“People found us,” she said. “We had customers up until closing time which was great.”
Ignoto is thrilled to see the program back in action this summer.
“I think it gives people more of a reason to come downtown,” she said. “I know some people have mixed feelings about it, but I think overall it does help the vast majority of businesses.”
Ignoto says with COVID-19 restrictions no longer in the picture, people may see the program as an opportunity to converse with friends and family they may have missed out on seeing over the past couple of years.
“People coming into the bakery seem really excited about it,” she said. “I think the word is spreading about it and I think only good things will come to businesses who choose to partake in it.
“Knowing that things are open and people are coming, having that featured item gives people even more of a reason to come up this way,” she said.
Mark Fletcher, who owns Cloud Gallery and operates out of Creative Nomad Studios, uses the See You on the Patio Program as an opportunity to sell art. He says the program is a "home run" for the downtown businesses who participate.
“Last year it had a huge impact on our business,” he said. “It gave us so many extra sales and it gave the town and the city a huge boost.”
While Fletcher says he’s glad the program is running again on Fridays, he would like to see the program run on Saturdays as well.
“We are only doing it for nine weeks,” he said. “Three of the nine Fridays could get rained out and then we are down to six of 365 days.”
The event gives Orillia new energy to tourists Fletcher says.
“This is a place that’s worth the drive,” he said. “This is the kind of thing that makes that happen.”