TORONTO: It’s patio season in Toronto and the CaféTO program is ready to support local restaurants with expanded outdoor dining space – now that Toronto has entered Step One of the Province of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen.
CaféTO is a very popular program that has been in high demand for restaurant and bar owners who need access to more safe outdoor dining space for customers as well as for their staff.
Outdoor dining is permitted for groups of up to four people from different households, providing public health measures including wearing a mask or face covering and distancing or barriers between tables, are in place.
When subject to no other regulations, most patios facing main streets may serve alcohol until 2 a.m. and must close by 2:45 a.m. Patios facing local side streets must close by 11 p.m., with last call for alcohol at 10:15 p.m.
The program is expected to support more than 1,000 restaurants in Business Improvement Areas (BIA) and non-BIAs across the city this summer with expanded outdoor dining options in curb lanes and on sidewalks.
The program is also expected to support more expanded dining space on private property (such as in plaza parking lots) this year as part of a temporary zoning change approved by Toronto City Council in the spring.
In late April, the City of Toronto, in consultation with Toronto Public Health, made the clear decision to move forward with its CaféTO installation schedule as planned. The intent was to ensure as many approved local restaurants and bars as possible could be ready to open immediately.
Installation of curb lane cafés, which includes installing traffic safety equipment and following detailed traffic safety plans, began as planned on May 8 and has continued around the clock throughout May and into June. All approved curb lane (onstreet) cafés from each of the first two CaféTO registration windows have been installed and are ready to use immediately.
Similarly, registered and approved operators will be permitted to setup safe and accessible sidewalk cafés right away. So far this year, the City has approved more than 960 restaurants for curb lane and sidewalk café locations. More than 520 curb lanes closures supporting more than 750 restaurants have been installed.
Registration for curb lane locations is expected to remain open until mid-August and registration for sidewalk cafés will be available through spring 2022. In 2019, before the pandemic, the City supported approximately 660 restaurants with registered cafés.
In 2020, the first year for CaféTO, the program supported an additional 616 restaurants (nearly double) with new outdoor dining space in curb lanes and on sidewalks that was not previously available.
In all of 2020, CaféTO supported more than 800 restaurants with new or expanded outdoor dining spaces. CaféTO is a City of Toronto COVID-19 response program that was launched during the pandemic to provide urgent help to local restaurants and bars.
The program promises to be bigger and better in 2021 by making it easier to open safe and accessible patios in curb lanes and along sidewalks, expand them as needed and access additional space for physical distancing. CaféTO space has proven to help many operators generate revenue while also enlivening nearby public spaces.