The Noble Fox Mexican restaurant in Bashaw has made the most of a difficult situation by setting up an attractive outdoor eating area, dubbed “The Fox Den,” which opened mid-April.
“Everyone is welcome. Come try the margaritas and good food at the patio, weather permitting,” said Carlos Siguenza, co-owner of The Noble Fox.
The province moved back to Step 1 of its pubic health restrictions on April 6, which shut down indoor dining for all restaurants as of April 9. As outdoor dining was still allowed, many Alberta businesses have gotten busy building patios, despite chilly spring temperatures, in order to continue serving some customers in-person.
When the weather has cooperated and they’ve been able to open the patio, the response from customers has been awesome, says Siguenza.
On five or six of the days it was open The Fox Den was full, however, they’re still only bringing in enough income to get by, he says.
They made their patio a permanent fixture, but says the government allowing outdoor dining “doesn’t help us nothing” and is still constrained by “silly” rules.
“The government doesn’t know what they’re doing,” said Siguenza, adding the promised help doesn’t come, or takes too long. The last grant he applied for took three months to come through.
“Looks good, sounds good when they’re at the podium, saying they’re going to help but they don’t help.”
He says they’ll always be known for rolling with the punches, but the punches are coming every day and they’re trying their hardest to keep afloat.
The Fox Den is located behind the restaurant and is now a fully enclosed, cozy dining area — but with all things, it came at a price.
The area was graded, leveled and packed with gravel, then topped with decorative gravel first.
Then cement end blocks were brought in, which double as benches.
The picnic tables had to be custom made, as “no one was selling them,” said Siguenza, and with the price of wood now, each table cost $300 apiece.
There is also a wooden fence and gates for privacy, and string lights.
A main feature of the space is a food truck being used as a bar. A cement centre piece made by Bashaw Concrete completes the dining area.
All told, the upgrade cost the owners $8,000 — all of which was paid for out-of-pocket.
The restaurant owners have been embroiled in a legal dispute, after being warned back in January for defying health restrictions by serving indoor diners.
They were issued a court summons for April 22.
After speaking with their lawyers, they decided to comply and stopped serving dine-in customers. However, the looming legal battle and pandemic stress took its toll. The owners took about a week-and-a-half off, completely shutting the restaurant down so they could have a break.
“We had to recharge — we were emotionally drained.”
As soon as its was announced patio dining would be allowed, however, they got to work setting up the Fox Den.
According to Siguenza, the court date has now been pushed back to May 3, 2021.
The Town of Bashaw has not approved any kind of patio permit program as other communities have.
According to Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller, although each zone or land use district has different criteria, a building development permit is required for businesses to build patios.
“If it is for business use, a business development permit would be required and would be reviewed as a business change in use,” said Fuller.
“We review it against the zoning for the area applied in, and the applicant would be responsible to address any safety codes issues.
“With the current economic situation, we wouldn’t prohibit a business from (building a patio). However, we recommend for the safety of patrons, that businesses apply for the permit — preferably prior to proceeding, however we will accept them after,” she said.
“They would be required to follow up with requested conditions.”
Fuller added that the town’s development permit fee is not cost-prohibitive and applications are processed roughly within two weeks.