Outdoor sidewalk patios will be back next spring as city council voted unanimously to make CafeTO a permanent fixture of restaurants.
CaféTO first started as an experimental program to help and rescue restaurants affected by decreased customer traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides restaurants with an opportunity to expand their dining spaces onto the sidewalk, or parking spots where social distancing is possible and manageable.
“CaféTO is good for restaurants and residents,” Mayor John Tory said. “The CaféTO program has helped more than 1,200 restaurants and main streets across the city and provided millions of dollars in support for the restaurant industry throughout the pandemic.”
More than 1,200 restaurants have registered for the program in 2021. Just this year, registration to the program rose by 51 per cent compared to 2020, with more restaurants owners taking the opportunity to secure permits to expand their indoor dining area to outdoor.
“This successful program supports operators, protects jobs and creates vibrancy,” Tory said.
The program includes over 940 restaurants with curb lane closures, and more than 69 Business Improvement Areas have had at least one or more restaurants participating with a temporary or permanent patio.
Led to higher sales
“It’s one of many important initiatives. I’m proud we have put into place and I know it will help Toronto come back from the pandemic stronger than ever, while also providing much-needed support to local businesses for years to come,” Tory said.
According to a city survey that included 192 business owners and 9,951 members of the public for Aug. 23 to Sept. 19, about 70 per cent of business owners reported their patios led to increased sales.
About 67 per cent of business owners reported their patios prevented their business from having to close down during the pandemic, with 66 per cent saying the patio allowed them to retain their current staff without having to let them go. There were also reports of 51 per cent saying the pandemic led them to hire additional workers.
Overall, 88 per cent of the public who took the survey were in favour of the CaféTO program.
“It’s a bittersweet experience dining in the outdoor patios since I have not had much interaction with people during the pandemic,” said Urgen Dorjee, a frequent visitor for patios on Bloor and Christie streets. “Eating outside and having people walk by you all the time reminded me of my high school cafeteria days. It’s a weird, happy, but unpleasant feeling.”
But she added it was good for the hospitality industry.
“We need to support our local businesses.”