City officials seeking to expand Toronto restaurant patios

May 13 2020, 1:38 pm

The City of Toronto is scoping out areas where restaurant patios will be able to expand onto sidewalks and roadways, Mayor John Tory announced Wednesday.

Tory shared the request that he made to City officials during his daily media briefing, which began by discussing the way forward for local restaurants reopening.

This additional patio space would allow for seating that maintains appropriate space between tables, per physical distancing guidelines.

“In the advent of the recovery, and the post-COVID world, [it is anticipated] that restaurants and bars will need more space. That is why I asked city staff to come back with a plan to expand patio space on appropriate sidewalks and streets,” Tory said.

“I think not only could this provide us with a more enjoyable summer — and that’s especially after all we’ve been through — but I also believe that it could be a lifeline for some of our restaurants.

Tory explained that eateries will likely be required to have tables inside and outside, that are all spaced further apart than what has, thus far, been considered the norm.

“I’ve asked our Transportation Services officials to come back to me with some possible locations where we could do this, and I expect I’ll have some news on that fairly soon,” he said.

The mayor likened the concept to what took place on King Street, where restaurant patios were offered extra space as the city implemented its transportation pilot project.

“I think we can sweep away some of the red tape, and get this done as a way of making the city even more friendly for everybody, but also for our hardworking friends in the restaurant business.”

Tory’s appeal for more space for Toronto’s restaurants is not unlike what’s taking shape in Vilnius, capital of Lithuania; the municipality recently announced that the city is set to become “one giant outdoor cafe.”

While some spots have moved their operations online, and others have closed temporarily, early April data showed that across Canada, nearly 10% of the country’s restaurants had shuttered for good since the beginning of this ordeal.

Those numbers showed an estimated 800,000 food service jobs had been lost across the country due to the pandemic, with more than 300,000 of those being in Ontario alone.

A move such as this one — allowing restaurants more space to practice distancing during the warm-weather seasons — may help preserve the city’s small business community.

The request comes at the heels of Tory’s announcement that the City of Toronto has collaborated with food-ordering app Ritual in order to support restaurants through the transition to a sphere of more virtual orders.