The city’s executive committee has approved a revised CafeTO plan set to begin this spring. The plan includes a more straightforward registration process and more outdoor space options making the process simpler for struggling restaurants.
The new plan will be presented to the Toronto city council for final approval on Feb. 2. If approved, the new program would allow restaurants and bars to set up patios as early as May. The revamped CafeTo plan is good news for restaurant owners that are struggling during the current lockdown. The CafeTO plan helped hundreds of restaurants across the GTA last year, and the new proposal would likely boost those numbers.
But the new plan is contingent on lower COVID-19 numbers. The city will only put the proposed CafeTO changes into action if cases of Covid in the GTA are low enough for public health to deem outdoor dining safe. This could mean waiting for more vaccines to appear, resulting in a delayed start to the patio season.
“Keeping CaféTO and making it bigger and better is the right thing to do,” said Mayor John Tory. “The CaféTO program was a popular and successful quick-start COVID-19 response program that helped local businesses stay in business, helped protect jobs, and improved the quality of life in our city for residents. We know operators and residents want the program to return this summer and we must do everything as we can as a municipality to help local businesses.”
According to a city report, in 2020 the CaféTO program “supported 801 restaurants in 62 BIAs, as well as 96 restaurants outside of BIAs. An additional 44 public parklets in BIAs were activated. The 439 curb lane closures converted 9,683 metres of traffic lanes into new outdoor dining space for restaurants.”
The new CafeTO plan also includes making patios more accessible for people with mobility issues. However, some residents still wonder what the city will do about blocking sidewalks and passageways with outdoor dining.
“CafeTO posed accessibility issues when it was running. The narrowing (and sometimes blocking) of sidewalks was especially hard for folks using mobility devices. What are you going to do to put the needs of disabled Torontonians ahead of business interests this time around?” a concerned resident recently tweeted in response to the new CafeTO plan.
Ten thousand restaurants across Canada have closed since March 2020 according to Restaurants Canada. Hospitality owners have another few months to go before sidewalks and other open spaces are ready for patio setups. Still, hope, it seems, is on the horizon with the new CafeTO plan.