Bad weather puts a damper on patio season

Unpredictable weather this summer has been bad for business and jobs at bars across the province that rely on patios to bring in customers

Toronto Bars have lost big business this summer because of empty patios

Business has been slow on the patio at Bar Wellington this summer. (Garry Asselstine/CBC News)

For Tara Stacey, the miserable weather we've had this summer has been more than an inconvenience, it's taken a toll on her pocket book.

"Last year I was probably making twice what I'm making this year."

Tara Stacey is a server at Bar Wellington. She says she is making half as much in tips this summer compared to last year. (Garry Asselstine/CBC News)

Stacey is a waitress at Bar Wellington, on the corner of Wellington Street and Portland Street in Toronto. She says last summer the patio there was full most nights, and they often had lineups of people waiting for a table. With her tables constantly full, she was cashing in on big tips.

This year Stacey says unpredictable weather has people staying away, even on sunny days.

"Now I think everybody's just kind of on edge, they don't know if it's going to rain or not, they don't know if it's worth spending the money," Stacey said.  

Alisha Tharani has kept her indoors this patio season. (Garry Asselstine/CBC News)

Bar Wellington has been lucky to have the patio half full most nights this summer. Alisha Tharani stopped by for dinner and some drinks on Monday. She says she loves patio season, but has been forced to pick her spots this summer. 

"There's no way I'm going to a patio if it's raining. Yeah, I'm sticking indoors," Tharani said. "Absolutely I'd be on patios more if the weather was better, but you can't really control that."

The Office Pub on John street has had similar problems filling both of their patios. It's been so lean that General Manager San Yoges has taken some drastic measures to cut costs.  

"Usually we hire a lot, but this year we cut down on summer staff." Yoges said.

The front patio at The Office Pub on John Street has been far less busy this year because of bad weather. (Garry Asselstine/CBC News)

And when it's raining he's also been forced to cut shifts for his regular staff.

"We've been monitoring the weather, and you know, not been scheduling a lot of staff."

In some cases, he's had to send employees home because there just isn't enough work.

Tony Elenis is the president and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association. He says many restaurants rely on summer revenue to carry them through the year.

"In many outlets that do have patios, business does grow up 30 to 50 percent based on the size of the patio," he said. "It's tremendous, tremendous support for a restaurant."

Elenis says ORHMA will know the full extent of the damage in the fall, which is when they usually release their summer statistics. In the meantime, he says it's clear numbers will be way down based on conversations he's had with business owners, and it's not just restaurants in Toronto that have been affected.

"We hear the same concerns from resorts north of Toronto, especially those that do have golf courses and accommodations."

The patio at Bar Wellington has been far less busy this summer compared to last year. (Garry Asselstine/CBC News)

Tara Stacey at Bar Wellington says she's hoping for a strong finish to the summer, and maybe even a warm fall which would keep the patios open. She's says it would be a big help to wait staff across the province, who might need a boost to get through the slower winter months.

"This is when all of us, during patio season, make our money for the winter," Stacey said. "We store all of this away for when it starts to slow down in the winter time."