You’ve probably seen them all over Hamilton: temporary outdoor patios built attractively and simply from wood and steel, sitting outside of countless local restaurants, bars, and cafes on sidewalks and in parking spaces.
What you may not know about these now-ubiquitous ‘pop-up patios’ is that they’re a homegrown creation; and their presence in the city and even beyond is growing by the day.
Pop-Up Street Patios, a Hamilton-based company, is headed by the team of Mike Raso, Saverio Valerio, and Carlo Rullo; a trio of long-time friends with combined experience in construction, transportation, and logistics who put their heads together to form the idea after Raso saw a patio being built onsite at a local restaurant.
Their plan was to create portable patios built in a single piece offsite that could be delivered to restaurants and easily installed outside on the sidewalk, on the street in a city parking space, or in an adjacent parking lot.
After getting to work on a design and refining some structural elements, Pop-Up Street Patios was officially born, with the company launching in 2017 thanks to some additional pilot project support from the city’s economic development team.
The concept is simple: portable patios – available to restaurants for lease or purchase – are constructed at Pop-Up Street Patios’ facility in their own patented design, then delivered to restaurants following a location consultation.
The company also assists restaurants with municipal permits for the temporary patio, and fully installs the unit within an hour onsite. Patios are installed in early spring and then picked up for storage come late fall, giving restaurants a refreshingly hassle-free experience.
As more seating typically means more guests, adding a temporary patio to a restaurant that doesn’t otherwise have one – or allowing restaurants to add an extension to their existing patio space – is a strong economic boon for Hamilton’s hospitality industry with clear ripples into the greater local economy.
Since its inception, Pop-Up Street Patios have become a hot commodity for Hamilton’s restaurants and small businesses; a simple, low-maintenance, aesthetically pleasing, cost-effective, and weather-resistant means of adding additional outdoor seating for patrons in the warmest, sunniest months of the year.
Popular restaurants all around the city like Nique, Saint James Espresso Bar, Souvlocke Greek Taverna, The Dirty South, Earth to Table: Bread Bar, and HAMBRGR among many others have integrated pop-up patios into their seasonal operations, using them to increase their own capacities and revenues while helping to bring Hamilton’s streets to vibrant, buzzing life.
The need has proven to be especially strong with the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hospitality industry. Countless restaurants, bars, and cafes have spent much of the previous year being forced to pivot their operations, innovate new means of revenue generation, and reckon with the fact that their profitable dining rooms have largely had to remain closed since spring of 2020.
However, with outdoor activities shown to be considerably safer than indoor ones given the airborne nature of the virus, patios have proven to be a necessary alternative to indoor dining. As a result, Pop-Up Street Patios isn’t simply giving restaurants a means of expanding their patio seating; it’s giving them a make-or-break lifeline as well.
That fact has been abundantly clear to the Downtown Hamilton Business Improvement Area (BIA), which features one of Hamilton’s largest concentrated selections of restaurants with popular spots like the James North strip and King William Street’s famous Restaurant Row. In fact, the BIA has even offered its area restaurants financial support to help them acquire pop-up patios during these tumultuous times.
“The Downtown Hamilton BIA knew the challenges the pandemic has created for our community,” says Kerry Jarvi, the BIA’s Executive Director. “A $1,500 grant was provided to businesses to utilize Pop-Up Street Patios. These patios are crucial for providing additional seating; we are looking forward to seeing more activity downtown this summer.”
As of 2021, the business has continued to explode, with Pop-Up Street Patios in hot demand not only for restaurants in Hamilton, but in cities all across Ontario such as Barrie, Toronto, Picton, St. Catharines, Timmins, Brampton, Woodbridge, and many others. They’ve even received interest outside of Ontario, with restaurants in provinces like British Columbia and Quebec ringing them up.
The sorts of units the company constructs has also expanded with the inclusion of custom-designed patio units, bump-out walkways, community parklets, and sidewalk rail systems, giving small businesses a versatile array of options for various types of spaces, functions, or desired configurations.
With the popularity of Pop-Up Street Patios only increasing, it’s clear that this scrappy, innovative Hamilton company goes well beyond a fad; in fact, it’s not unlikely that it will become a key piece of infrastructure for the local and regional hospitality industry for years to come.
Images courtesy of Pop-Up Street Patios