Toronto preliminarily approves expanded CaféTO program

First patios could be installed in May if restrictions are lifted

The City of Toronto Executive Committee has approved a report backed by Mayor John Tory which outlined a plan for a bigger and better CaféTO program in 2021 to help local restaurants.

The report, recommending that an expanded program start this spring to help Toronto’s main street restaurants and bars during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, was approved at the meeting of the Executive Committee on Wednesday, January 27.

It will now be considered by Toronto City Council at its next meeting from February 2 to 3.

The report includes details about the CaféTO – a quick-start pandemic response program launched last summer – and outlines key findings and outcomes along with recommendations on how to ensure the program is bigger and better this year.

A City release notes last summer, when outdoor dining was permitted, CaféTO helped hundreds of restaurant and bar operators. Some of its key measures included making it easier to open patios in curb lanes and along sidewalks, as well as expanding them and accessing additional space for physical distancing. This space helped operators generate revenue and enliven nearby public spaces.

The latest report indicates that the City would again work closely with BIAs and local restaurant and bar operators and make enhancements including:

  • Updating the registration process so that it is even more clear and straightforward. Registrations would start as early as February.
  • Developing comprehensive and safe traffic management plans to help make sure the curb lane cafés are as safe as possible for people dining, employees and people using the road.
  • Supporting quick CaféTO installations so that the City can begin helping approved businesses as soon as possible once winter is over.
  • Allowing owner/operators to build decks and platforms for curb lane café areas, where applicable.
  • Ensuring there is accessible furniture for public parklet areas.

As described in the report, within a revised registration process and contingent on prevailing public health orders, the first approved CaféTO curb lane closure locations for 2021 could be in installed as early as May – almost two months earlier than last year.

Survey results

The report also includes the outcomes of a City-led CaféTO survey. Approximately 2,800 respondents comprising restaurant and bar owners/operators and members of the public, indicated the following:

  • 95 per cent of respondents want to see CaféTO operate in 2021.
  • 90 per cent of those surveyed were very satisfied or satisfied with their patio experience.
  • 66 per cent of operators said their restaurant would not have been financially viable without CaféTO.

In 2020, CaféTO supported 801 restaurants in 62 BIAs, as well as 96 restaurants outside of BIAs. An additional 44 public parklets in BIAs were activated. The 439 curb lane closures converted 9,683 metres of traffic lanes into new outdoor dining space for restaurants.

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