Ontario allowing restaurants and bars to temporarily expand patios

Jun 8 2020, 6:54 am

The Province of Ontario is making it easier for restaurants and bars to expand their patios this summer with free temporary extensions.

The decision serves to safely accommodate customers, once licensed establishments are permitted to fully reopen for business, while supporting staff and businesses in the hospitality sector impacted by the pandemic.

Licensed establishments will be allowed to create a patio adjacent to their premise, or increase the size of their patio once they are permitted to welcome customers on-site.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will not require licensees to apply or pay a fee for these temporary extensions, however, licensed establishments must ensure they have municipal approval and meet all other applicable requirements.

These new measures will be in effect until 3 am on January 1, 2021.

The province is also providing enhanced choice and flexibility to Ontario liquor manufacturers regarding the location of “tied houses”, which are the restaurants and bars located at wineries, breweries and distilleries. Effective immediately, tied houses are no longer required to be located on the manufacturing site itself, but may be located anywhere at the same municipal or property address as the manufacturing site.

In alignment with the province’s move, Mayor John Tory announced on Thursday the development of CafeTO, a new program designed to help the restaurant and bar industries restart after the pause as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tory described CafeTO as a “quick-start program that will make it easier for restaurant and bar owners to open patios, to expand patios, and to access additional space for physical distancing.”

The program will provide more outdoor dining and drinking areas and areas by identifying space in “the public right-of-way,” and expediting the current application and permitting process for sidewalk cafes.

City officials are working at “wartime speed” to expand Toronto patio space, Tory said, so that, when the Province deems it appropriate, restaurant and bar owners can act fast.

“I know there’s a tremendous amount of interest in this program from restaurant owners and bar owners, and from the BIAs — we’ve actually had dozens and dozens of inquiries about this since we indicated that we were putting a program together,” Tory said.

“Since I first raised the idea we’ve heard from a lot of individual establishments and a dozen BIAs expressing interest in doing this so that means, by definition, it will be something not confined to downtown and will happen in different areas of the city where the BIAs think it can be made to work.”

The mayor said that after a “good conversation” with Attorney General of Ontario Doug Downey, who is responsible for the AGCO, most of the discussions with the Province regarding aspects related to liquor laws are “largely resolved.”

That discussion, Tory said, and similar conversations have revolved around “a mutual desire to cut red tape,” and ensure that these patio expansions “can be done on a very simple, straightforward basis.”

Tory announced his appeal for more space for Toronto’s restaurants in mid-May. The concept 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.”

Tory commended the speed with which city staff have navigated this action plan on Thursday morning.

“They’ve done it with what I describe during this pandemic as wartime-speed, because we knew that this is an industry that’s been terribly hard-hit, and we also knew that it’s an industry that’s very important to people and to their enjoyment of summer and to their enjoyment of their own neighbourhoods,” the mayor said.

“We’re certainly imploring people, in the days as the pandemic hopefully recedes, to drink and to dine and to shop local, to get those small businesses back on their feet.”