The food and liquor services sector hopes to maintain proper physical distancing at restaurants and pubs as they implement plans to safely reopen by being allowed to seat more people outdoors decks, patios and sidewalks.

Municipalities such as North Cowichan and Parksville have already taken steps to make it easier for wineries, restaurants and bars to expanding outdoor seating.

The provincial government is now loosening its permit process to allow the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation branch to respond more quickly and in a streamlined way to requests for expanded patio and service areas.

However, establishments cannot expand their overall occupancy and any expansion must have local approval.

Applications will be processed faster and with no inspections required, but compliance checks will be made regularly.

Permits to temporarily expand their service areas would be good up until October 13, 2020.

At its meeting on May 20, North Cowichan council agreed to support the hospitality industry by directing staff to expedite requests for patios and other outdoor expansions.

The decisions affects restaurants, bars, craft breweries, and winery tasting rooms.

The hospitality sector wants flexible, innovative, and expedited patio permitting in order to help foster economic recovery post-COVID-19.

Also on May 20, Parksville Council approved a motion to allow restaurant seating on sidewalks and parking lots to help with spacing to meet the physical distancing requirements.

The motion also permits business owners to use their onsite private parking to expand their seating without triggering requirements for City permits.

Parksville council hopes this motion will allow restaurants to create more outdoor dining space.