Fostering downtown business innovation

People enjoying a seasonal patio in downtwn Guelph

The Seasonal Patio Program continued to support businesses in their economic recovery and growth in 2022.  

The program was introduced in 2020 as an emergency measure to help reopen restaurants, bars, and closed cafes during the COVID-19 pandemic. After receiving positive feedback from the business community, Council approved a revised 2021-2023 Seasonal Patio Program. The initiative allows for the seasonal conversion of outdoor areas, such as sidewalks and parking spaces to patio use on private and public property from April 1 to October 31 in accordance with the 2021-2023 Seasonal Patio Guidelines. The revised three-year program saw a shift in focus towards business retention, attraction, and expansion as the City looked to and beyond pandemic recovery.  

The program’s success has been integral in supporting the corporate vision for a thriving and vibrant downtown. Majority of businesses with seasonal patios reported increased revenue and received positive feedback from their customers. The community engagement survey showed that 800 out of 900 respondents were people visiting patios downtown as well as in other areas of Guelph. The survey also revealed that visitors are more likely to stay downtown longer and visit businesses they would have never visited before. Moreover, 71% of respondents wanted to see the program continue past 2023. This is an exciting prospect for the City's economy.

Part of the program’s continued success lies in the City’s ability to refine the program each year. For example, in 2022, we opened the Macdonell parking lot to 2-hour complimentary parking and added 60+ parking spaces. We also created a "Stop Circling and Park" campaign to educate visitors about where to park downtown and direct them to our parkades through pedestrian and driver signs. These initiatives helped compensate for the parking loss from the patios and helped with a wider shift in visitors’ parking behavior. Further, we’ve been working with businesses that don’t have the ability to participate in the program to help identify ways to promote their businesses.  

With the final year of the pilot program underway, we are excited to see the impact of the program on the city's economic development and tourism industry. The seasonal patio program has become a signature experience in the City of Guelph, resulting in job creation, tourism spending and powering a future ready Guelph. We believe that it will continue to attract visitors and support local businesses for years to come.

Additional 2022 highlights

Group of people watching a presentation on the circular economy


COIL is an innovation platform and activation network focused on creating, proving and scaling transformative solutions across all sectors.

Aerial photo of downtown forest

Community-focused Economic Development and Tourism Strategy

With a renewed focus on people, the Economic Development and Tourism Strategy positions and promotes Guelph as a destination of choice to attract visitors, top talent and investments.

Community-focused Economic Development and Tourism Strategy
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IEDC Gold Award of Excellence

In September 2022, the City was recognized with a Gold Award of Excellence at the annual International Economic Development Council (IEDC) annual conference in Oklahoma City for its Guelph Shops Holiday Wish Book.

IEDC Gold Award of Excellence