GUELPH -- Guelph council's committe of the whole has decided to only close streets in the city's dining district for special events.

The debate lasted for several hours.

The program is designed to help restaurants hit hard by the pandemic.

Last year, the intersection of Wyndham and MacDonnell Streets in Guelph was closed to traffic as patios extended into the streets. It was good news for bar and restaurants owners when indoor dining wasn't allowed.

"It allowed us to build a bit of a buffer for the summer months," said Colton Proveau, co-owner of Brothers Brewing. "But, that buffer has kind of been depleted, so we're hoping for the same thing this summer to allow us to pay bills, keep chugging along."

City staff presented a report to council suggesting keeping the dining district program in place for the next three years with some changes. The first change proposed less patio space.

Council also considered changing road closure times. Options included a permanent closure in the warmer months, an intermittent closure on weekends, or closures only for special events.

They voted to only close during special events.

The vote was unanimous, but Mayor Cam Guthrie said he wasn't entirely pleased with the decision.

"I am very disappointed that we're not looking to try to help with the closing streets," he said. "I think a lot of people are going to be upset about that, to be honest with you."

Guthrie said he had to hold his nose while casting his vote and thinks Guelph residents will not react kindly to the plan.

"I really do think it's a missed opportunity," Guthrie said. "There was so much joy around what we did last year."

Other retailers said foot traffic increased at their businesses during the summer months. But, some said the road closure cost them business and they'd like to see the intersection stay open.

The road closure also caused inconvenience for transit users since it altered drop-off locations and transfers.

"Many transit users are seniors or have mobility issues," said Adam Donaldson, who uses public transit. "That makes running to catch a bus that much more difficult."

Monday night's decision at the comittee level still has to be endorsed by council.