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Vancouver Suddenly Has Hundreds of New Patios, So What Happens When It Rains?

Once upon a time I worked in a busy waterfront restaurant with a 75-seat patio overlooking the beach. It was split up into three sections, each overseen by a single server. Being so far from the kitchen and bar, we had to work as a team and run each others food and drinks. It was a good and lucrative situation, but it came with a big catch: If it suddenly started raining, chaos would ensue. There weren’t enough shade umbrellas to cover everyone and we couldn’t just move them inside because most tables in the dining room were already occupied — usually by diners who had been denied their request of a table on the patio (and were thus now quietly writhing in schadenfreude orgasms as they watched the mad scramble unfold). Of course we would eventually figure things out and settle things down, because that’s what you do. Two to five tables would have already been finished dinner anyway and were just camping to enjoy the view, so they’d quickly settle up and get on their way. Others would move to the bar or we’d stick them in the private room to finish their dinners. And yet there would always be a few tables that would see their evenings pretty much ruined. Try as we might, there was little we could do for these folks except pack up their wet, half-eaten meals and apologize for things that were beyond our control. We did our best, but Mother Nature…

I was reminded of this trauma when I watched New Jersey comedian Vic Dibitetto‘s bit on patio dining during the pandemic (above). It was good for a chuckle, watching him calmly eat his soup and drink his wine during a downpour, but it brought back that old feeling that blends a sense of responsibility with panic and powerlessness. We might now be eagerly buying into the concept of eating at picnic tables in parking spots, especially in the midst of a sun-soaked heat wave that causes us to forget that it rains a lot here, but what happens when Vancouver resumes its regularly scheduled programming of wet, grey misery? I ask because back in my day (Late Stone Age) we were experienced at handling sudden showers; we planned for it, trained for it and worked our way through it as best we could. Servers and managers can’t just cram wet diners inside anymore — there are now complex pandemic protocols to consider before they play Tetris with their seating charts. Many of the restaurants, cafes and breweries that are now setting up outside for the first time have never had to consider such a contingency because they’ve never had to work a Vancouver patio before. They’ll handle it, I’m sure, and wet guests will eventually dry with a funny story to tell, but it remains a worthwhile question for them to ask themselves while the sun still shines: Seriously, what happens when it rains?

There is 1 comment

  1. Rain is OK but seagulls making shit bombing runs on outdoor patios are the worst.
    It will splatter and stain guests on multiple tables.
    I’ve never wanted to kill something so bad in my life.

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