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Saint John boardwalk patios may have 'interim opening' this weekend, following fire marshal's shut down order

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Restaurant patios on the boardwalk in Saint John, N.B., may be able to re-open in some capacity as early as tomorrow, following a shut down order from the provincial fire marshal last week.

“There will be an interim opening,” said Saint John mayor Donna Reardon to CTV Atlantic on Thursday. “Hopefully that will take us right through to our official opening and there will be no glitches between now and then.”

“We'll have interim seating and furniture down there until we get established what the requirements are for public safety, for fire, with the tables, chairs, whatever other infrastructure that we are going to require down there.”

Reardon said the status of re-opening the newly constructed enclosed patio was still unknown ahead of this weekend.

“That still needs to be sorted out, so that will happen,” said Reardon. “But in the interim, the picnic tables have been ordered, they'll be set, there will be training for people working down there.”

The Market Square restaurants have continued to serve customers inside through the patio closure.

“Public safety is paramount and we all get that,” said Reardon. “So it's just trying to work together, work through, to make sure we have everything in place so when we do open it's a safe space for everyone,” said Reardon.

Provincial Fire Marshal Michael Lewis has declined multiple interview requests since the shut down order was issued.

The patio first opened on June 1 and was shut down June 6.

According to the city, a contingency plan to have a security guard monitor 24/7 for fire was approved by the Saint John Fire prevention office (which according to the city, was acting on behalf of the provincial fire marshal’s office) while construction of a permanent fire suppression system continued.

Ultimately, the provincial fire marshal rejected the interim plan of a fire watch.

At this week’s city council meeting, the city’s commissioner of utilities and infrastructure Ian Fogan said additional parts of the open-air patio’s permanent fire suppression system had become active since the shut down order, including its alarm and sprinkler components.

A statement earlier this week from the provincial fire marshal, issued through the Department of Public Safety, said occupancy on the newly constructed patio would be granted once there was “completion or substantial completion of construction.”

Restaurants Canada Atlantic vice-president Jordi Morgan said it was remarkable the patio shut down had lasted a full week.

“It does make the case for insuring people get on the same page for situations like this, because it’s not the government departments that end up eating this,” said Morgan. “It’s the people who are impacted by it.”

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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