Toronto curb lane patios are closing up, but their growing popularity point to a return
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Toronto curb lane patios are closing up, but their growing popularity point to a return

Restaurants and bars in Toronto must pack up their curb lane patios no later than Nov. 10 as CafeTO comes to an end, but the success of the program may lead to their regular seasonal returns. 

CafeTO was designed as a program to help provide outdoor dining spaces to local bars and restaurants during the pandemic.

The city launched a public survey for restaurant operators, customers and the general public to get feedback on CafeTO. The survey showed that 91 per cent of respondents believed extended sidewalk and curb lane patios should be allowed in Toronto in the future.

“Less space for cars didn’t bother me. People going to those areas were probably there for the patios anyway, so the traffic was a given. Plus, it might help with the reducing carbon emissions goal,” said Raffi Vahe, 29, in an interview.

The Prime on Avenue, a restaurant in Toronto, had a popular patio during the summer months, especially after initial restrictions were lifted in June, said Artour Batikian, the owner of the restaurant.

“I didn’t think people would enjoy their food and the full experience of coming out to our restaurant on the street, but after being home for so long the customers started to appreciate it more,” he said in an interview.

Prime on Avenue in Toronto starts closing up the patio before the end of the CafeTO program on Nov.1, 2021. The program helped many restaurants and bars stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic (RSJ/Anna Maria Moubayed).

Mayor John Tory endorsed a City of Toronto report that recommends making the CafeTO program permanent and developing criteria for the seasonal use of curb lane patios by summer 2023. 

“I’m excited to see what having so many outdoor patios on the streets could look like. It might be crowded but I think it will also give some life to the city,” said Batikian.

According to the news release, the removal order refers to curb lane patios only. CafeTO-registered patios on sidewalks will continue to operate and are permitted to remain in place throughout the winter until April 14, 2022.

“There is overwhelming enthusiasm in favor of making the program permanent and to do so in a measured way that considers the many potential uses of public space going forward. I look forward to discussing this report at the Executive Committee next week,” said Tory in the city news release.

According to the news release, the report will be considered at the next meeting of the Executive Committee on Oct. 27, followed by the City Council on Nov. 9 and 10.

In 2021, 429 restaurants opened a new sidewalk patio or expanded an existing one through the CafeTO program.

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Alex, a server from Eggspectation talks about what he thinks is special about their restaurant.

Eggspectation located on Bay Street recently put up tents for customers to eat outside during this time. (RSJ/Sherwin Karimpoor)
November 7, 2021

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