The staff report, CaféTO 2022 and Beyond, recommends CaféTO be made a permanent program that can continue providing support to local restaurants while also making city streets more vibrant for years to come.
Designed as a quick-start program in 2020 to help provide outdoor dining space to local bars and restaurants during the pandemic, the popular program was approved by City Council to return in 2021 and saw a 51 per cent increase in participation when compared to 2020 registration.
This year, CaféTO is supporting more than 1,200 restaurants with expanded outdoor dining opportunities on streets and sidewalks in 2021, including 940 restaurants with curb lane closures, totalling more than 12 linear kilometres of public space allocated for outdoor dining opportunities. Sixty-nine Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) have had at least one restaurant participating in CaféTO this year and 158 participating restaurants are located outside of BIAs.
Public parklets were also installed to provide an increased amount of public space in café-saturated streetscapes. In 2021, there were 39 BIAs that participated in the public parklet program, with a total of 65 public parklets city-wide.
This summer, the City launched a public survey for restaurant operators, customers and the general public to gather feedback about CaféTO. The survey received more than 10,000 responses which showed that 91 per cent of respondents believed that extended sidewalk and curb lane cafés should be allowed in Toronto in the future.
As outlined in the report, City staff are recommending a phased approach toward a permanent and streamlined CaféTO program.
This report also recommends a new registration process for future, permanent CaféTO sidewalk cafés starting in 2022. The new, permanent process would be fast and streamlined and, if approved, restaurant operators will only need to apply once for year-round expanded sidewalk cafés. Currently, existing temporary CaféTO sidewalk cafés can remain in place and available through the winter until April 14, 2022.
Approximately 500 restaurants city-wide already carry a permanent permit for a sidewalk patio, and in 2021, 429 restaurants opened a new, or expanded an existing, sidewalk café through CaféTO.
While the report recommends the return of temporary curb lane cafés next year, with installation starting as early as May 2022 and under similar guidelines and requirements from 2021, it also includes a recommendation to develop criteria for the permanent, seasonal use of curb lane cafés by 2023. This approach will help keep the program as flexible as possible in order to allow for adjustments related to potential changes to the food service industry, as well as changes to traffic patterns and street uses as a result of pandemic recovery over the coming year.
In addition, City staff are proposing to once again waive all application, transfer and permit fees for curb lane, sidewalk and parklet cafés in 2022.
The report will be considered at the next meeting of the Executive Committee on October 27, followed by City Council on November 9 and 10.
Read the City staff report, CaféTO 2022 and Beyond: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2021.EX27.10.
Details about CaféTO, including how to register for a new sidewalk café, are at www.toronto.ca/cafeto.
“The CaféTO program has been a hugely successful and incredibly popular program that has helped hundreds of restaurants stay open. We turned parking spaces into patios to support small businesses and our residents. CaféTO is a clear example of doing everything we can as a municipality to help small businesses through the pandemic. There is overwhelming enthusiasm in favour 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.”
– Mayor John Tory
“CaféTO is an enormously popular program that has helped hundreds of restaurateurs recoup losses and generate revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the pandemic will continue to impact both business owners and employees in Toronto's hospitality industry for the foreseeable future. Making CaféTO permanent will bring a level of certainty as the industry works toward recovery. I look forward to reviewing the report more closely, and championing the introduction of a permanent version of this vitally important program.”
– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee
“CaféTO has brought back the energy and vibrancy of main streets across Beaches-East York as well as being a lifeline to local restaurants and communities throughout the pandemic. The program has shown us that there are healthy, safe alternatives for how we share our public space. By thinking a little differently, we can make room for doing business and gathering as a community while leaving enough room for cars, bikes and transit. Making these changes helps our local businesses thrive and our main streets become even more colourful, vibrant and liveable. I look forward to reading through the report and the discussions ahead with community members and my colleagues on City Council.”
– Councillor Brad Bradford (Beaches-East York)
“CaféTO has helped keep local restaurants in business, protected jobs and employees, and supported neighbourhoods and small business owners in Toronto-Danforth and across the city. It’s an innovative program that has made more space for outdoor dining and has been received especially well by residents along popular destinations such as the Danforth, Gerrard Street and Queen Street East. I look forward to reviewing the report more closely and discussing further at City Council in a few weeks.”
– Councillor Paula Fletcher (Toronto-Danforth)
“Few programs have uplifted restaurant operators and the hospitality industry like CaféTO. It has encouraged people to safely return to dining-out and helped to keep businesses in business. It’s no secret that operators have faced so many challenges and so much uncertainty throughout the pandemic and, on behalf of TABIA and its member BIAs, we are ready to do whatever we can to help keep the program successful for operators and make it a fixture in Toronto.”
– John Kiru, Executive Director, Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA)