Toronto

Table for everybody: City says La Carnita patio 'not acceptable,' must ensure public access

The owner of popular Toronto restaurant La Carnita said he will comply with a request from the city to make changes to the patio at the John Street location because, as it is now, what is supposed to be a public space is not very accessible to the public.

Patio area actually a so-called privately owned, publicly accessible space, or POPS

Diners enjoy the patio at La Carnita on Friday, August 12. The city wants changes to ensure the space is more accessible to the public. (Andrea Janus/CBC News)

The owner of popular Toronto restaurant La Carnita said he will comply with a request from the city to make changes to the patio at the John Street location because, as it is now, what is supposed to be a public space is not very accessible to the public.

Andrew Richmond said he has been in talks with the city for about two months about what to do with the space at the north side of the restaurant at 106 John Street. There is currently a fence along the sidewalk line, with a small walkway opening that runs along the restaurant's north wall leading into its sister ice cream shop, Sweet Jesus.

The city has found that "the current configuration of the space is not acceptable…and must be changed," and Richmond said Friday that he is working with city staff to find a solution.

"We are in talks with the city to figure this out and make changes as they need to be to make everybody happy," Richmond told CBC Toronto in a telephone interview.

Asked what kind of changes will be made, he said he didn't yet know, but hoped the issue will be resolved soon.

"We are just trying to work toward making that space a better place," he said.

Bruce Hawkins, a spokesperson for the city's planning department, would not specify what changes the city has requested. In an email, he would only say that the city would like "the space returned to being publicly accessible."

Jennifer Keesmat, the city's chief planner, tweeted Friday evening that the fence around the patio was "illegally erected," and noted that staff are working to improve public access to the space.

The area, which is part of the development at 295 Adelaide Street West at John Street, is designated what the city calls a privately owned publicly accessible space, or POPS. The city negotiates with private developers to include these spaces in its plans for buildings in order to keep open spaces part of the urban landscape, particularly in the downtown core.

The development at 295 Adelaide, which encompasses the John Street address, calls for a POPS in the space in which La Carnita has erected its patio.

Toronto resident Jake Tobin Garrett raised the issue in his blog, This Land is Parkland, and contacted Coun. Joe Cressy about the issue.

Hawkins said in an email that an easement — or a "right of use" — for the location "does permit some patio use in the space.

"However, in the city's view, the current configuration of the space interferes with pedestrian flow and ease of use by the public."

He added that the city is in "ongoing discussions" with the restaurant and expects staff "to make appropriate modifications to the space in the near future to ensure greater open access for the public."

Resolution before end of patio season?

According to Hawkins, the easement that permits the POPS for the space requires La Carnita to request and obtain permission from the city's planning department to use it as a café and patio.

"That permission was never sought or obtained," he said.

But Richmond said he is "trying to figure that out" because ownership was confident it had obtained the necessary paperwork for the patio.

"It's not like we would erect a patio without navigating the proper channels," Richmond said.

Asked whether the issue will be resolved before the end of summer, which also marks nearly the end of patio season, Richmond replied: "I hope so. I have no idea, but I would hope so."

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