La Carnita to take patio down after city complains about public accessibility

La Carnita on John Street is taking down its patio after a dispute with the city over preserving public space, the owner of the restaurant says.

The move follows a CBC News story on Friday revealing the fence around the patio was 'illegally erected'

La Carnita says it's in talks with the City to find a resolution (Tania Mehta/CBC)

La Carnita on John Street is taking down its patio after a dispute with the city over preserving public space, the owner of the restaurant says.

Andrew Richmond spoke to CBC News by phone Monday afternoon and confirmed that the business will make changes to the space in "the next couple of days."

"We're taking the patio down," he said.

The news comes after the restaurant erected a new sign on Saturday, inviting passersby to "feel free to use the space and any of our benches." 

La Carnita's welcoming message to anyone who wants to take a seat on the patio (Tania Mehta/CBC)

The sign appeared just a day after CBC News reported on the city's complaints that the business did not make the space publicly accessible. 

"This is becoming a bigger and bigger issue so it was just a way to communicate back to everybody that we are taking this seriously," Richmond said. 

The patio, at 106 John Street was previously reserved for La Carnita customers and was also used by customers from its sister ice cream shop, Sweet Jesus, in the mornings until around noon, according to Richmond. 

Fence 'illegally erected'

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

CBC News spoke with people seated on the patio Sunday afternoon to see if they knew that the space was meant to be publicly accessible. Here's what we heard. 

Do people know the La Carnita patio is open to the public?

5 years ago
La Carnita patio 0:21

"I had no idea, with a fence up you think it's something else," said Callum Brand. 

Brand and his wife, Jamie Brand, felt the fence is one of the main reasons why people think the space is just reserved for customers of La Carnita and Sweet Jesus. 

"You don't want to feel like you have to go in and spend how ever much on an ice cream cone to be able to sit and watch the happenings of a very busy and interesting part of the city," Jamie Brand said. 

Others brought up the umbrellas on the patio featuring the La Carnita logo, and suggest that losing all types of branding in the space would help make it more accessible. 

'We want a resolution as much as everyone else does'

As designated by the city, the space is privately owned, publicly accessible space, or POPS.

This means that the city negotiates with private developers to include these types of spaces in its plans for buildings in order to keep them part of the urban landscape, particularly in the downtown core.

The area, which is part of the development at 295 Adelaide Street West at John Street, calls for a POPS in the space in which La Carnita has erected its patio.

When the area developer, Pinnacle International, submitted the planning application for the space, the initial artist rendering of what the area was planned to look like is drastically different from what is there now. 

Initial artist rendering showing what the developer envisioned for the space in the planning phase of 295 Adelaide Street West at John Street, where La Carnita is located. (City of Toronto)

Bruce Hawkins, a spokesperson for the city's planning department says that the city would like "the space returned to being publicly accessible."

Richmond says the business is in active talks with the city to come to a resolution, adding that the restaurant submitted three proposals last week to change the patio to "accommodate for more public space, shrinking it drastically (and) reconfiguring it."

"We're doing everything we can with the city right now to figure this out," he added, "there's clearly a discrepancy somewhere, we're just trying to figure out where it is and move forward."