Toronto city council votes to extend CafeTO outdoor dining program into spring 2021

Toronto city council has extended the city’s outdoor dining program well into the coming winter months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Curb lane patios will no longer be permitted to make way for snow clearing

A Toronto restaurant patio.
Indoor dining is not allowed in Toronto until at least Nov. 7 due to provincial restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Toronto city council has extended the city's outdoor dining program well into the coming winter months.

Councillors on Tuesday approved a motion by Mayor John Tory to keep the city's CafeTO program active until April 14, 2021.

The program, introduced by the city in June in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, allows businesses to expand their outdoor dining spaces by seating customers in areas such as sidewalks and curb lanes. It also waives the normal fees for patios created under the program.

CafeTO had been set to expire on Nov.16. It was unanimously approved upon its introduction and the proposed extension was approved by the city's executive committee earlier in October.

"As we move into the winter months, we want to find ways to help give our businesses as much adaptability as possible," said Mayor John Tory in a statement. 

"We need to give businesses the flexibility to operate where safe and possible through the winter months.

Bars and restaurants in Toronto are only allowed to serve customers outdoors under the modified Stage 2 restrictions introduced by the provincial government on Oct. 10. Those restrictions will be in place for at least 28 days.

WATCH| Many restaurateurs complain rules around winter patios are too vague:

What will winter patios look like? Many restaurant owners are asking

3 years ago
Duration 2:51
Toronto city council approved a motion to extend CafeTO, the city’s outdoor dining program, until April 12, 2021. But owners are calling for clear-cut regulations to allow their restaurants to stay in business throughout the winter. Greg Ross has the story.

While the updated and extended version of the program is largely similar to the original introduced by the city this summer, there are some new restrictions and changes.

Curb lane patios, for example, will no longer be allowed after Nov. 16 due to snow-clearing requirements. Businesses will instead be asked to set up outdoor patios on sidewalks or in parking lots, where possible.

The program also calls for the city to promote outdoor winter dining through what it is calling a BYOB — bring your own blanket — campaign.

Marianna Andreacchi, owner and executive chef at Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen and Pizza Bar, says rules around the types of heaters and tents permitted under the CafeTO program are too vague. (CBC)

Marianna Andreacchi, a business owner who installed a curb lane patio at her restaurant this summer, said the city must lay out clearer guidelines for the program before the winter.

"There's always a worry that an inspector could come and we're not following a regulation that we're unaware of," said Andreacchi, the owner of Giovanni's Italian Kitchen and Pizza Bar on College Street.

She said rules around the types of heaters and tents permitted under the CafeTO program are too vague.

"I hope soon they give us some sort of definite answer on that," she said.