The business community in Gastown has had a lot of wacky ideas over the years—e.g., power a clock with steam, put up a statue of a drunk who married a 12-year-old*, etc.—but today the neighbourhood association announced a venture I can really get behind: the launch of PATIOTOWN. (*To be fair, the official Gastown BIA had nothing to do with putting up Gassy Jack, and is reaching out to the local Indigenous bands to discuss next steps.)
In an effort to expand restaurant and bar service while still respecting the province's social distancing recommendations, the city has greenlit 180-plus new or temporary patio spaces, so Vancouverites can hob-nob en plein air. With over 20 patios and 500 seats now available in Gastown specifically, the neighbourhood is the proud home to the city's largest consolidation of outdoor seating in this brave new time of sidewalk-adjacent drinking, and is trying out a cute new nickname—Patiotown, if you've been paying attention—to match. I, for one, am into it. Somebody get on a flag design, STAT.
Photo: Amanda Moire
Much like Hamsterdam in The Wire, Patiotown is a living social experiment, albeit one with complimentary bike valet service on Fridays and Saturdays. The city has long rejected patio applications, tamping down on nightlife options out of concern for residential neighbours and general neighbourhood character, but now it's Phase 2 and all bets are off. What will happen with this new freedom? Our hope is that the visitors and residents of Patiotown (who will be called...Patiotownites? Patiowegians?) will treat the privilege to drink like a European with respect and care, so that Patiotown may thrive for generations to come.
Temporary new patio locations include Alibi Room, Local Gastown, Las Casita, Milano, Pourhouse, Steamworks, Water Street Cafe and Birds and the Beets, as well as city-created pop-up seating spaces.
In keeping with Patiotown's distaste for walls and roofs, the neighbourhood also just announced a new outdoor public art exhibition of the Murals of Gratitude. Painted on shuttered local storefronts during lockdown, the murals—painted by over 40 local artists and curated by Museum of Vancouver—now will be on display throughout the summer between Carrall St. and Water St.
Photo: Erich Saide
There have been a lot of surprises throughout COVID, but the most shocking may be the development of a new neighbourhood like this—social, vibrant, nightlife-positive—in a city that is simultaneously recovering from a pandemic and still shaking off its prohibition-era liquor regulations. For those of us desperate for some summer fun after a nightmarish spring, it's a delight to see the city reawaken. I, for one, pledge allegiance to Patiotown (once they remove that statue, at least).