City council voted on Wednesday morning to make the sidewalk and curb-lane patio program CaféTO permanent and to waive permit fees in 2022 .
The program, which is endorsed by Mayor John Tory, was launched in 2020 to provide extra space for outdoor dining at restaurants. It was created as a means to support food businesses who were struggling during lockdowns and physical distancing restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CaféTO is here to stay! Today Council voted to make the outdoor patio program permanent, and to waive permit fees for the program again in 2022.— Joe Cressy (@joe_cressy) November 10, 2021
By redesigning our streets for people, we’re expanding uses for public space across the city. pic.twitter.com/fJFYQBT7So
“I think we’re at a remarkable moment in the history of the city of Toronto,” said councillor Gordon Perks during the city council meeting. “We have found a silver lining in the pandemic and found a way to reimagine what our business streets are for and how they function.”
With the current regulations in place until April 14, 2022, the city will introduce a new permanent version of CaféTO in 2023. The city is still working out what exactly those new rules will look like. In their staff city report, the city says that businesses will be allowed to have “multi-season patios under a formal, multi-year program.“
This will mean constantly reevaluating and redesigning the public space that’s being used by these food businesses.
“Not only is that fair to all the citizens, but also all the businesses,” councillor Stephen Holyday said. “Not every business has access to extra square feet because of their location or the way they’re configured.”
Currently, the city has installed public parklets – essentially sidewalk extensions – to accommodate more outdoor dining space for businesses, while also giving back the right-of-way to sidewalk pedestrians.
Using street lanes for patios could create a surplus of vehicle traffic, but Tory says we should get used to rethinking the way city streets are used.
“With the growth that’s projected, with the climate change objectives that we have as a city [and] with the changing ways in which people get around, we simply cannot say that we are going to have the status quo maintained,” he said.
The city says in a statement that that they saw a 51 per cent increase in businesses participating in the program this year in comparison to 2020. Currently, 500 restaurants in the city already carry a permanent patio permit.