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Coronavirus: Danforth cafes, restaurants prepare to reopen as Toronto moves into Stage 2

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Toronto’s Danforth businesses prepare for phase 2 reopening' Coronavirus: Toronto’s Danforth businesses prepare for phase 2 reopening
WATCH ABOVE: Small business has been especially hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the restaurants and cafes along Toronto’s Danforth Avenue get set to reopen, they’re banking on a plan by the City to help them recover. Caryn Lieberman reports – Jun 22, 2020

In the bakery of the Red Rocket Cafe on Danforth Avenue, staff spend the day preparing orders for delivery.

It is a service that is new to the Cafe since the coronavirus pandemic set in.

A website offers a selection of ready to bake pastries and coffee beans for home delivery while the business remains closed for pick-up.

“A lot of customers have shown their support … we’re doing probably 30 to 35 per cent of what we would usually do,” said owner Billy Dertilis.

READ MORE: Toronto, Peel Region move into Stage 2 of province’s reopening plan Wednesday

He has a second location on Wellesley Avenue with plexiglass installed and markers on the sidewalk outside to ensure physical distancing by customers.

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Dertilis said that cafe has reopened and is bringing in about half of the usual business.

“It’s been really tough on businesses to not be open, so any easing of rules is welcomed,” he noted.

With Toronto set to enter phase two of reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants may open for dining in outdoor areas, including patios, curbside, parking lots and adjacent premises.

“We’re happy because, obviously, we want to start driving our businesses and recouping our losses,” said Dertilis.

In the meantime, he is making changes to the interior of his cafe on Danforth, moving the bakery into the main area.

It is a major renovation but one he is confident will help provide a better experience for customers, and change the set-up of the Cafe in case there is a second wave of COVID-19, he said.

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While many of the small businesses along the Danforth have suffered amid the pandemic, Toronto Coun. Paula Fletcher noted there is hope on the horizon in the form of ‘Destination Danforth.’

“Even with stage two opening they can’t have their cafes and restaurants full so CafeTO will create space outside and in the curb lane to be able to have people come to your establishment, be safe, order from you, try to get back on track,” she explained.

READ MORE: More Ontario regions to enter Stage 2 of reopening Friday; Toronto, Peel, Windsor still excluded

It is a $4-million investment by the City of Toronto to assist in small business recovery and create more public spaces.

The plan would allow residents and visitors to the Danforth to follow physical distancing guidelines while dining on patios.

There would also be a dedicated bike lane and other infrastructure improvements.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Financial strain on Toronto continues as city moves into Stage 2 of Phase 2 reopening' Coronavirus: Financial strain on Toronto continues as city moves into Stage 2 of Phase 2 reopening
Coronavirus: Financial strain on Toronto continues as city moves into Stage 2 of Phase 2 reopening – Jun 22, 2020

“We have CafeTO coming which will be these great on-road cafe spots to bring people to the street with social distancing … it will really create kind of a European street on the Danforth,” said Fletcher.

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Dertilis, who is also the chair of the Danforth Mosaic Business Improvement Area (BIA), said he finds the proposal encouraging for businesses along East Danforth.

“I think the Danforth is going to change significantly,” he said.

“We have the opportunity here on the Danforth to really create a high street — the way it perhaps was in the ’50s and ’60s with people staying in the area, people are frequenting the shops and they create a local geography, where everything they need is in a few blocks radius.”