Awning sales brisk as businesses and homeowners anticipate rainy season

Rain coverings and awnings are at a premium these days, as businesses look to all-season patios to survive the approaching winter weather.

Companies that produce and install outdoor tents and awnings say calls are pouring in for quotes and orders to cover sidewalks, parking stalls and courtyards to increase seating areas.

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And it isn’t just restaurants and bars.

Peter Stofko of Pacific Rollshutters and Awnings said residential customers are installing coverings for outdoor living spaces in order to host safer family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

He said three of the region’s hospitals — Royal Jubilee, Victoria General and Saanich Peninsula — have also ordered overhead coverings and drop curtains to expand waiting areas as the winter months approach.

“It’s been busy … rain protection is seeing a huge uptick in business,” Stofko said.

“Restaurants and bars have lost half their space [inside] because of COVID, and need seating outside.”

The provincial health officer’s advice that it’s safer to spend time outdoors led to a surge in calls for awnings through the summer, and now into the fall and winter — typically when the business starts to wind down, said Stofko.

“We had a busy summer for sun- and shade-related products, and more people are now saying I want to be out at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Pacific Rollshutters and Awning has a staff of six. Depending on the order, it usually takes about three weeks to order and design, and a day to install.

Orders range from simple awnings to four-season rooms with gutter systems.

Darren Massey, co-owner at Jeune Bros., said the company is providing five times the usual number of quotes for projects around the Island.

Jeune Bros provides retractable and fixed awnings and tenting, and has been in business since 1886 in downtown Victoria. Crews this fall have been installing awnings for several businesses, as well as institutions, including larger awnings for a health centre in Parksville.

“There’s definitely been a pickup,” said Massey, adding it’s keeping his 10 staff members busy.

Bart Reed, owner of the Beagle Pub in Cook Street ­Village, said he has plans to cover a patio on the Oxford Street side of the pub. Pre-COVID, it seated about 30, but with social distancing, only about 12 are allowed.

The cost is $80,000 for a retractable tent, and the earliest it can arrive and be installed is January, provided the supply chain via New York and Montreal has no hitches, said Reed.

That doesn’t include the cost of commercial-grade heaters, which are about $35,000 and already acquired, he said.

“It’s not a lot of seating, but it’s something,” Reed said.

Patio coverings for the Cook Street side are a little more complicated and will require additional approvals and permits from the city, he said.

The Beagle is like many restaurants and pubs around the region that need outside seating to survive.

The pub normally seats about 140 inside, but the allowable number now is about 70. When the sun is shining, the patios can make up for some of the losses in sales, but when the weather turns, it hurts.

Reed said the recent wildfire smoke and rains dealt about a 60 per cent blow to his bottom line because people did not sit outside. “You can barely pay the bills at that point,” said Reed.

A report from ­Moneris, Canada’s largest ­financial technology company that specializes in payment ­processing, said business in Canadian retailers in home ­supply and warehouse stores was up 31% from last year.

Moneris data showed B.C. had a 15% increase in volume of business in tent and awning shops this August compared to last year. Those increases are expected to continue into the fall and winter.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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