Parking lot patios and space in parks could be part of Toronto restaurant reopening plans

Ontario began phase one of their reopening plan on May 19, which included reopening of retail stores with street-front entrances and lifting essential workplace limits on construction — but so far no clear guidelines for restarting/reopening Toronto restaurants and patios have been given.

With the warm weather underway, Toronto-area PC MPP Gila Martow proposed this week to responsibly expand patio services when restaurants and bars are allowed to reopen.

“Our restaurants and hospitality sector is part of the hardest hit by this pandemic of COVID-19,” Martow said to the legislature on Wednesday. She asked the legislature to work with the hospitality sector and the Auditor General to expand the services, hours, and locations that patios can offer.

“Perhaps they could take up a bit more space. If there’s maybe even park space or parking lots that we can amend the rules,” Martow said, adding that people feel more comfortable social distancing while outside.

“Hopefully this global pandemic has toughened us up a little bit that even if it’s a bit chilly on the patio, that we’ll walk over and we’ll dress appropriately.”

The plan — in which Ontario Premier Doug Ford is reportedly open to — is receiving support from the hospitality industry and municipalities across the province, including Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti, who noted that his city is working to help restaurants expand their patios to allow for physical distancing.

 

 

Toronto, Mayor John Tory told CP24 earlier this month that the city is looking into allowing restaurants and bars expand their patios once they’re allowed to reopen, for better physical distancing.

“I think it could be a lifeline for some of the restaurants especially in light of the fact they’ll be probably required to have tables further apart inside and outside,” Tory said.

Other municipalities across Canada and the U.S. are considering socially distanced outdoor dining to help the struggling hospitality industry.

 

 

Last week, Vancouver’s city council voted in favour of giving restaurants more freedom in opening patio spaces. The vote came after a recent survey suggested that as many as half of B.C.’s restaurant owners said they don’t expect to survive the COVID-19 crisis if conditions remain the same.

By restaurants expanding their decks and making use of open sidewalks and closed streets, the idea is that they can essentially create large open-air dining rooms and attract more foot traffic.

 

 

The expected traffic can’t come soon enough for some restaurants. As jurisdictions across Canada move forward with lifting emergency measures, Toronto restaurants will need more support remaining viable until they are on a path to full recovery.

According to a survey published earlier this month by Restaurants Canada, about seven out of 10 survey respondents said they are either very or extremely worried that their business won’t have enough liquidity to pay vendors, rent, and other expenses over the next three months.

 

 

Still, the idea of expanding patio space has received some backlash on social media, with some questioning if expansion is a good idea with the daily number of COVID-19 cases trending upward.

 

 

On Thursday, the Ministry of Health confirmed 441 new COVID-19 cases — up from 413 new cases on Wednesday — and the highest number of new cases since May 8.

Article exclusive to TRNTO