Toronto extends patio season by allowing heaters in CafeTO spaces

The city is allowing restaurants to heat pop-up patios as fall approaches

Get ready for Toronto’s first widespread fall patio season.

With cooler temperatures looming, the city is allowing portable heaters on CafeTO patios. The program, which came into effect in June, allows restaurants to extend outdoor spaces onto sidewalks and into curb lanes. The city fast-tracked the usual approvals process, getting rid of red tape and making it easier to obtain liquor licensing.

That bureaucratic process would otherwise get in the way of adding outdoor heaters (or at least ensure multiple rounds of paperwork), but the city is streamlining the process.

Portable heating devices, including “fire fuelled” appliances like propane heaters will be allowed on all patio types. The city has sent Toronto Fire Services’ guidelines to patio operators and says they must be followed closely. Tents and other covered structures are still not allowed in curb lane closures.

“We are doing everything we can to support our local restaurant industry,” said Mayor John Tory in a release. “I heard this request from the restaurant industry and took action to help allow portable heaters to safely keep CafeTO installations and patios warm, even in late October and November, to help extend the season.”

Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening has allowed restaurants to reopen at reduced capacity in indoor spaces, too, but many diners have preferred to sit outdoors where the virus is less able to spread. Those spaces are also an economic lifeline where restaurants’ margins become slimmer at reduced capacities.

Even with the loosened rules, including allowing alcohol for delivery and takeout, many restaurants are worried they might still have to close. Winterized patios themselves won’t save the dining and hospitality industry. Earlier this week, the federal government extended a commercial rent relief program for a final time.

As it is now, CafeTO is scheduled to end in mid-November or first major snowfall. The province, meanwhile, has paused any further reopening measures for at least four weeks, meaning patios could still close before restaurants are able to increase their indoor capacities. And COVID-19 cases increasing in Ontario as we approach winter flu season, those months could be very hazardous for restaurants’ indoor spaces.

There’s always one guy who braves a patio in cargo shorts in single-digit temperatures. Now he’ll have a lot of company.


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