City of Toronto report plans for changes to CafeTO to make it permanent

Click to play video: 'CaféTO returning to Toronto with new fee structure, sparking concern'
CaféTO returning to Toronto with new fee structure, sparking concern
WATCH ABOVE: Toronto is moving one of its most popular pandemic-era programs to a more permanent strategy in order to address accessibility and business concerns. But some fear CaféTO’s new requirements will freeze out businesses that are still struggling. Matthew Bingley reports – Jan 24, 2023

The City of Toronto has released a report with proposed changes to the popular CafeTO program that will see it transition into a more permanent and sustainable program.

The report highlights that it wants CafeTO to move from a “temporary emergency response initiative” into a more permanent program that makes Toronto streets more “attractive, safe and accessible while continuing to allow restaurants and bars to operate with expanded space outdoors.”

“The proposed changes will ensure CaféTO installations are beautiful, active, and accessible,” city officials said.

The program was originally launched in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic in a bid to give restaurants more of an outdoor dining option due to public health restrictions.

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CafeTO includes opportunities for sidewalk cafes and seasonal curb-lane patios.

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The report recommends returning to the existing requirement of constructing temporary platforms in curb lane café permit areas to ensure curb lane cafés are fully accessible, and to increase safety near on-street patios and address concerns about equitable program access.

In addition to the one-time application fee, the city said a permit fee to participate in CafeTO will be an annual fee that will be the same across all areas of the city.

It also notes that the curb lane areas will be allowed from May 15 to Oct. 15 instead of previously when it began on April 14 and lasted until Nov. 15. All fencing must be removed by the permit holders outside of the amended time frame.

The report also contains a recommended grant program to assist businesses in meeting requirements.

The number of businesses using CafeTO increased year-over-year as Torontonians seek dining in more outdoor spaces. In 2020 there were 801 businesses participating, 2021 saw 1,213 and in 2022 there were 1,327 businesses.

The report goes to execute committee review on Jan. 31.

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