Amid complaints its latest location on English Bay is aggravating sidewalk congestion, the Vancouver-owned Cactus Club Café says it is working with the city and an independent consultant to address the problem. It has also made an immediate change in customer traffic management.
From opening day on March 2, black vinyl ropes were often set up outside the restaurant directing patrons departing on foot straight into a busy two-way bike lane. But as of the past weekend, the ropes were relocated to contain customers to the pavement immediately in front of the restaurant and along the sidewalk parallel to the route used by cyclists. “We’re really happy to hear that. It looks like our letter has had some positive impact,” said Christine Ackermann with the West End Residents Association.
On May 7, Ackermann posted a laundry list of concerns to the group’s website focusing on safety on the bike route and sidewalk in front of the new Cactus Club location. During the prolonged construction of the beachfront restaurant, cyclists were instructed to dismount and walk their bikes along a narrow pathway shared by pedestrians on southwest side of Denman Street.
Since posting the letter, Ackermann has spoken with parks board general manager Malcolm Bromley. She did not hear from the restaurant chain. The “congestion and conflict” she outlined stemmed from three factors, including the placement of the guide ropes. “Customers are disoriented and often do not recognize they are crossing or walking on the bike route,” she wrote.
A second concern remains the commercial loading zone, which Ackermann said is misused for valet parking and to drop off passengers. “This creates safety issues for both motorists and passengers that are dropped off,” she wrote.
Thirdly, wrote Ackermann, “Signage is poor and installed from the perspective of motorists. Signage needs to be installed from the perspective of pedestrians, cyclists and the Cactus Club customers.”
On Monday she noted the city’s efforts to ensure pedestrian safety and told the Courier the newly configured ropes marked an improvement. A manager with the popular restaurant chain would not confirm the ropes will stay as they were on the weekend. No one from Cactus Club was available for an interview but the chain released a statement to the Courier through a communications firm to say it is working with the city, parks board and an unnamed independent planner. “Cactus Restaurants is fully committed to resolving the issues raised by the West End Residents Association in a way that will ensure the safety and convenience of cyclists, pedestrians and Cactus Club patrons,” the statement read.
Ackermann said pedestrian and cyclist traffic conflicts involving the opening of the restaurant were anticipated and should have been better mitigated. “It’s important for the Cactus Club and the parks board to know that residents are interested and we’re not going to just let them have a free ride to put whatever they want in there. We want to make sure it works with the community for the community that it’s sitting in as well as having our guests come in and use their services.”
The Cactus Club footed the bill for the new restaurant and rents the coveted location at the intersection of Beach, Denman and Davie streets in the West End from the city for an annual cost of $240,000 plus four per cent of revenue over $4 million.
In a September 2009 report, six months before the Cactus Club was approved to build on the location, city staff identified the need to carefully manage the high-use, high-traffic intersection.