WINDSOR, ONT. -- To go along with a week of above-seasonal temperatures, Windsor city council has approved an early start to the patio season and is waiving associated fees for small businesses.

During Monday’s budget session, council moved up an administrative recommendation to allow restaurants and bars to open their patios on April 1.

“We all kind of did a little happy dance, a little jump for joy there because it really helped the downtown area,” says Jason Barsotta, a brewer at Craftheads Brewing Company in downtown Windsor.

The patio at the Pelissier Street establishment doubled their capacity to serve up flights of beer, while also creating a patio culture that drew people out of COVID-19 hibernation, Barsotta says.

“It brought people downtown in a safe environment. It brought some normalcy to the pandemic that we’re going through to sit outside and enjoy the sun, a nice beer out on the patio,” he adds.

According to Brian Yeomans of the downtown Windsor BIA - it was a draw for people who usually stay away from the core - during a worldwide pandemic.

“People were out, coming from LaSalle and Tecumseh and so forth for the first time in years,” says Yeomans. “To see that happening, I’d love to see that continue, because it changed the way people perceived downtown.”

He says businesses are extremely grateful for the opportunity to do it again - another way to survive what’s been a very difficult year.

“You have people sitting outside, people walking down the street, even if you don’t have a parklette, the parklettes were a benefit to the businesses surrounding them,” Yeomans says.

Council also approved in principle the re-opening of the Lanspeary Park outdoor food hall, operated by Windsor Eats.

“We’re extremely happy and grateful that council saw the impact it had and were willing to support it again,” says Windsor Eats co-owner, Adriano Ciotoli.

Ciotoli says 3,300 people visited the open-air food hall over 21 days in 2020, pumping $113,000 into 40 local restaurants fighting to stay afloat.

“That’s a nice shot in the arm at a time when a lot of the businesses weren’t able to open heir doors,” Ciotoli says.