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Patio power: Options to drink and dine in Charlottetown keep growing

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - A warm, sunny Thursday proved the perfect day for Lisa Gallant to hit the deck.

Gallant, who describes her age as “cracking 40’’, started her deck day at Receiver Coffee on Victoria Row in Charlottetown for a hot Cup of Joe and breakfast.

For lunch, she then travelled a short distance along Victoria Row, scaled several flights of stairs and parked herself in a swinging wicker chair on the rooftop deck of Fishies on the Roof.

Gallant, a native Islander who has lived in Minnesota for about eight years, enjoyed a glass of white wine as she waited for friends to join her for lunch.

She anticipated being on yet another deck come evening, perhaps Peakes Quay Restaurant & Bar where she could drink in the soothing view of boats floating in the harbor while enjoying mussels and a beverage.

Gallant, like many locals and tourists, is thrilled with the growing number of decks in Charlottetown where people can drink, dine or just sip a coffee or tea.

“I love it,’’ she says. “I love the ambiance…I love patios.’’

There is no shortage of patio decks in the capital city.

Some are as modest as a few chairs and a table.

Others go big, like the new Merchantman patio complete with outdoor bar, lawn games and comfy seating.

There are even restaurant patios floating on the water.

The more the merrier, says Kevin Murphy, president and CEO of Murphy Hospitality Group, which owns numerous properties with decks, including Sims Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar, Merchantman and Fishbones.

“I never think there is too many,’’ he says.

“The people that do it right and give great service survive and do well.’’

Murphy says patios in Charlottetown have come a long way over in a handful of years, both in numbers and in quality, and have become a key part of the landscape of the restaurant industry.

“At the end of the day our season is relatively short,’’ he adds. “It gives us that little extra capacity to do extra business.’’

The Murphy Hospitality Group was the first business to look skyward for a patio. Fishies on the Roof is in its third summer serving drinks and food up on a roof.

“That was a major investment into a product,’’ says Murphy.

“It is a different space and a different feel up there.’’

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Steve Barber is a co-owner with Jacob Hiemstra of Red Island Hospitality Group Inc. in Charlottetown, which includes Hunter’s Ale House, John Brown Richmond Street Grille, Factory Cookhouse and Dancehall and the Charlottetown Beer Garden and Seafood Patio.

All four properties have decks, but some are more reliant on them than the others.

The Factory, for instance, is more of a dance hall and the patio does not draw as well as Hunters next door or the Beer Garden across the street.

Barber notes business at the Beer Garden is greatly influenced by weather.

“If it’s a beautiful day people are going to sit outside at the Beer Garden,’’ he notes.

Barber views the large number of businesses in Charlottetown going with decks as creating an attractive overall product.

“I love the fact that there are patio decks everywhere,’’ he says.

“It’s a tourist destination.’’

Two couples visiting Charlottetown from Louisiana were walking along Victoria Row Thursday during the lunch hour, heard a live band playing jazz, liked the look and feel of the pedestrian-only street, and decided to settled down at a table at John Brown Richmond Street Grille, one of several patio options along the block.

“The food, the music and the view,’’ Patrician Flournoy says is sizing up the appeal of Victoria Row.

Steve Barber, along with Jacob Hiemstra , co-owns Red Island Hospitality Group Inc. in Charlottetown, which includes Hunter’s Ale House, John Brown Richmond Street Grille, Factory Cookhouse and Dancehall, and the Charlottetown Beer Garden and Seafood Patio.

Al and Heather Bell of Peterborough, Ont. looked in no rush to give up their rail-side table at Peakes Quay overlooking the water.
“The view is nice,’’ observes Al.

“This is kind of our scene,’’ adds Heather.

“We like the deck, the sun and looking out at the harbour.’’

Hannah Morgan, 20, of Truro, N.S. was not put off in the least at having vehicles driving nearby her table as she enjoyed lunch Thursday with her friend Martha Day, 18, of Charlottetown at the Casa Mia Café overlooking Confederation Centre of the Arts.

“I just like sitting in the sun,’’ says Morgan.

“You feel like you are more involved in the summery things going on in Charlottetown.’’

Charlottetown Counc. Greg Rivard, chairman of the planning and heritage committee, says the public simply loves patio decks.

“I think for the short season that they’re open, they’re wonderful,’’ says Rivard.

“I think if it’s nice out…if there is an opportunity to sit outside and enjoy a meal and take in the scenery, it’s a no brainer.’’

Eddie Francis of Charlottetown sips on a cup of green tea on the small patio of Kettle Black on Queen Street while Toby waits for his owner to emerge from the coffee shop.

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