Friday, 10 June 2016

A Roof Top Patio

It's summer in Calgary, or at least approaching summer. It seems a bit early this year. Nonetheless summer means a proliferation of restaurant patios. Mostly these things bother me. They block the sidewalks such that it is difficult for me to get a wheelchair past. The tables are set so close that I am compelled to sit on the outer edge of things, right next to the entrance gates. And more times than not a patio fails in providing access to a wheelchair washroom. Oh, and the prices go up in many cases.

But not all are like this. The other day a friend of mine, Neil Mitchell, tagged an article by Avenue Calgary magazine on Facebook. The article was about the top 10 Patio Restaurants in Calgary. I read the article and noted that it said nothing about wheelchair access. So I posted in Neil's thread. Then I went a step further and posted a comment about wheelchair access on the Avenue Calgary Magazine Facebook page.

The initial response from Avenue Calgary Magazine was the usual "thank you for your comment". I don't respond well to that comment, so I posted back "So will you do anything about it?" Within a few minutes they had contacted all of the patio restaurants to discuss wheelchair access, and updated the online article. Hooray for the Internet and rapid response!

The simple fact that a restaurant says it is wheelchair accessible means very little to me. It's not just wheelchair access to the serving area, but access to a bathroom and space between tables so I can get in. I have found that most restaurants don't understand this. So I was skeptical, but I though would try one of them that looked interesting; the Roof Top Bar @ Simmons. The Simmons building is an old mattress factory in Calgary's revitalized East Village. I'd never been there. They claimed wheelchair access, so I asked Neil if he wanted to meet me there last night. He did. We went.

I have to say, I am incredibly impressed with how the Roof Top Bar @ Simmons is laid out. There are the high bar tables, but there are also plenty of lower tables, all arranged to provide a terrific view of the Bow River and the downtown skyline. The elevator, which serves all three floors of the building along with the basement, is one of those glass ones, where you can see each floor as you go by, the tables and space enticing on all three levels, was large and easy for me to access.

When I got to the third floor, the eponymous Roof Top Bar, I told the hostess that I would like to sit near the edge, close to the river. She and another young man quickly disposed of excess chairs and set me up with a minimum of fuss. Getting between tables was a bit tight, but no more for me than for almost anyone else. No big deal.

But then I had to go to the bathroom. I don't know about you, but one sip of beer can do it to me some days. This was one of them. So I turned my PWC about and headed for the upstairs bathroom, the one on the same floor as the patio. As it turns out, this is not a handicap bathroom, much to the surprise of the on-duty manager. They've only been open for a few weeks, and nobody had noticed this before. Also, the well setup wheelchair bathroom was with the main bathrooms in the basement, so most people would have gone there regardless.

So I went to the basement. Access to the wheelchair bathroom wasn't great, perhaps a 7 out of 10, but still better than what I have been through in a great many other places. The doors opened the right way. The stall was large. The only problem was toilet placement; it was perpendicular to what would have been best for me, but probably the best place for most wheelchair users.

Once I got back upstairs, I noticed that some of the guests had blankets, ready for the cool of the evening. The Roof Top Bar @ Simmons provides guests with blankets! Oh, and sunglasses too if you need them, since the positioning of the tables means someone is looking directly at the setting sun at the end of the day. Terrific idea! The blanket idea is even more important for those in wheelchairs, as we tend to get cold easier than most.

I guess the only thing I would be critical of, if this is even critical, has nothing to do with wheelchair access. I found their draught beer choices decidedly limited, with an IPA and a lager being the only selections. Their menu is limited, just a few main items and perhaps a half dozen small plates. But still, the food was good and the view was wonderful.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I find myself recommending a place, for wheelchair access, for ambiance, and for repast. If you are in Calgary, or visiting soon, I suggest you try it, especially if you are in a wheelchair. And tell them I sent you! It won't get you a free beer or anything, but it will let them know that people in wheelchairs talk to one another, and we like a good patio too.

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