Toronto City Council has voted to extend the city’s winter patio program, providing support to local restaurants through to the spring.
The recommendation, which was put forth by Mayor John Tory last month and approved by the Executive Committee last week, was unanimously approved by the council, and will provide more outdoor dining options for the city. Indoor dining is currently prohibited in Toronto under provincial orders.
The decision extends the CaféTO program and will allow some restaurants to create patios on sidewalks. The City Council also voted to extend zoning bylaw amendments that will increase the maximum size of outdoor patios on private property, and remove any restrictions that might prevent an outdoor patio located in front of a building.
“Restaurants need flexibility to find expanded outdoor dining spaces that are safe and meet important accessibility requirements,” the council said.
All fees and charges for winter CaféTO locations will be waived. Relevant city departments and local councillors will work with restaurateurs to expedite the process for winter patios and tents.
“Winter is coming and we need to support restaurants by allowing winter cafes right now,” said Tory. “The effects of COVID-19 have been felt throughout the industry, and I will continue to encourage staff to come up with new and creative ways in which we can continue to support local restaurant operators while recognizing that we must maintain important safety and accessibility requirements.”
To keep customers comfortable in the frigid Canadian winter, portable heaters have been permitted to be placed within sidewalk cafés and on private patios.
Fire pits and other open air fires, as well as temporary tents and structures, are not permitted on sidewalks. However, they will be allowed on private property with the proper permits and as long as public health guidelines are followed.
The City’s CaféTO program was created during the pandemic and, at its peak, supported 621 restaurants, including 439 curb lanes and sidewalk cafés, across Toronto, the council said.