City of Toronto allowing portable heaters to extend patio season

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WATCH ABOVE (June 24, 2020:) Coronavirus -- Toronto business calls for more flexibility with CafeTO program. Matthew Bingley reports. – Jun 24, 2020

The City of Toronto says it wants to maximize patio season by allowing portable heaters on outdoor restaurant patios, including on CafeTO sidewalk and curb lane closures.

The move comes as a way to provide additional support and revenue for local restaurants that have struggled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Allowing restaurant operators to safely introduce portable heaters will help make outdoor dining more appealing to customers, encourage physical distancing to help stop virus spread, and give restaurant operators the chance to maximize outdoor patio season and generate revenue,” the City of Toronto said in a news release Friday.

Read more: Coronavirus: Toronto launches CaféTO to help restaurants, bars create expanded patios

Portable heating units such as propane heaters will be allowed on all outdoor restaurant patios in Toronto. Owners must closely follow guidelines set out by the Toronto Fire Services, the city said.

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The city said patios will be monitored by Toronto Fire Services staff and bylaw officers. Previously, applications were required for heaters but the city said the new guidelines will streamline that process and documentation “is no longer required at this time.”

The city said depending on snowfall in weather forecasts, the CafeTO program is scheduled to end late fall.

“We are doing everything we can to support our local restaurant industry,” Mayor John Tory said.

“I heard this request from the restaurant industry and took action to help allow portable heaters to safely keep CaféTO installations and patios warm, even in late October and November, to help extend the season. I want to thank City staff for working to find a way to make this possible to help restaurants as much as we can right now.”

CafeTO program launched during the COVID-19 pandemic and gave more than 760 restaurants in Toronto the ability to increase dining capacity amid strict health measures. The program included more than 400 curb lane closures and sidewalk cafes.