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.
Thank you to MPP @GilaMartow
for addressing our call to the @Ont_AGCO to modify licensing requirements to support restaurants and bars hit hard by the #COVID19 pandemic. Markham is working to help them expand their patios to allow for #PhysicalDistancing.https://t.co/OKsFqzbRaV
— Mayor Frank Scarpitti (@frankscarpitti) May 21, 2020
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.
“The motion called to look at setting up commons-style outdoor dining rooms on public plazas or on streets, in addition to quick and flexible options for patios for restaurants to help them survive and give people room to eat.” — @sarahkirby_yung https://t.co/ThknNkBwSe
— Downtown Van Assoc. (@DVA_Metrocore) May 20, 2020
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.
.@MWhiskeyKitchen is gearing up for outdoor dining today as Kentucky restaurants are allowed to re-welcome dine-in customers. Indoor seating is limited to 33% capacity. Outdoor is unlimited but socially distanced. Merle’s will start indoor dining tomorrow. @WDRBNews pic.twitter.com/f1N6ZNvR6o
— Lexie Ratterman (@LRatterman_WDRB) May 22, 2020
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.
NEW SURVEY RESULTS: 7 out of 10 restaurants might not have enough cash flow to pay vendors, rent & other expenses over the next 3 months.
— Restaurants Canada (@RestaurantsCA) May 7, 2020
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.
So in a city like Toronto, where sidewalk space is already at a premium and crowded downtown is the norm, you propose to add more deck space to restaurant patios to further crowd already small spaces?
— Brian colpa (@brianecolpa) May 21, 2020
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.