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Toronto makes CaféTO permanent to support local restaurants and bakery cafés


November 12, 2021
By Bakers Journal

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Toronto – Toronto city council approved a plan that will make the popular and successful CaféTO program permanent while continuing to deliver needed business support to restaurants including waiving permit fees in 2022.

The CaféTO 2022 and Beyond staff report was overwhelmingly adopted by council. Making CaféTO permanent allows for operators to make firm plans for the long-term with expanded outdoor dining options. It also ensures that the program can continue providing important supports to local restaurants over the coming years while also making Toronto’s streets more vibrant and dynamic.

The permanent CaféTO program will deliver more business supports to operators in the form of business grants and promotional programs as well as encourage more outdoor dining opportunities in suburban areas of the city, including Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York. The plan also ensures that underused CaféTO spaces will be actively managed, and staff will look at the potential for more locations and services in suitable CaféTO areas.

CaféTO curb lane (on-street) cafés will return in 2022, under similar guidelines and requirements to the 2021 program, and all application, transfer and with today’s city council vote all permit fees for curb lane, sidewalk cafés and public parklets will be waived next year. Registration will open early in the new year and installation will start as soon as May.

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A new registration process will be launched for future permanent CaféTO sidewalk cafés. The new process will be fast and streamlined and restaurant operators will only need to apply once for year-round expanded sidewalk cafés. Currently, existing temporary CaféTO sidewalk cafés can remain in place until April 14, 2022.

Approximately 500 restaurants city-wide already carry a permanent permit for a sidewalk café, and in 2021, 429 restaurants opened a new, or expanded an existing, sidewalk café through CaféTO.

City staff will also immediately begin developing criteria for the permanent, seasonal use of curb lane cafés by 2023. This approach will help keep the program as flexible as possible 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.

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.

In 2021, CaféTO supported more than 1,200 restaurants with expanded outdoor dining opportunities on streets and sidewalks, 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 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.

A public survey for restaurant operators, customers and the general public, which gathered over 10,00 responses showed overwhelming support for the program. Of those who participated, 91 per cent believed that extended sidewalk and curb lane cafés should be allowed in Toronto in the future.

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