Live music coming back to some Toronto patios as part of new pilot project

The City of Toronto has created a pilot project allowing amplified live music performances on patios part of its CafeTO program in three eligible wards.

City announces pilot to allow amplified live music on CafeTO patios

Tak Arikushi Trio is one of many music groups and musicians seeking to take advantage of the city's new pilot project announced Thursday. The Trio played shortly after Mayor John Tory's announcement at Italian restaurant Trecce's patio. (CBC)

Live music is returning to some Toronto patios.

On Thursday, Toronto mayor John Tory announced a pilot program to allow live music on patios as part of the city's  CaféTO program.

In June, city council approved the pilot for three wards: Beaches-East York, Toronto-Danforth, and Davenport. Restaurant, bar, or cafe owners with a CaféTO patio in one of the three wards can participate from now until Oct. 31.

"This is one of the dividends that come from people getting vaccinated," Tory said in the news conference. "It'll make for a more pleasurable dining experience, create some life on the sidewalk and produce more people in the community to visit local businesses."

"The most important thing is to provide opportunities for musical artists who I'm looking forward to hearing play," he added, noting that the music and hospitality sectors have suffered immensely in the pandemic.

Tory made the announcement at the patios of Local 1794 and Trecce, two of the more than 1,000 restaurants in the city taking advantage of the CaféTO program to allow for patio seating in public space. He was joined by deputy mayor Ana Bailão and Coun. Brad Bradford.

The pilot aims to encourage people to return to restaurants and bars, and also visit local shops and services. It also aims to help local artists who've been hard hit by the pandemic to allow for the opportunity to perform on CaféTO patios.

City's music office available for eligible participants

Amplified live music will be permitted Thursdays and Fridays from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 10 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.

The city says its music office is available to help participating venues with logistics including renting and setting up a PA system, measuring and limiting music volume to adhere to noise bylaws, configuring patio space and booking artists.

"This pilot to allow amplified live music to outdoor patio spaces will bring Torontonians the joy of live performance again," Bradford said. "After navigating an incredibly challenging 18 months, this pilot is about investing in our music sector, energizing our main streets, and supporting local businesses."

"We've all desperately missed it," he added.

Some businesses, musicians want to see pilot expand to all wards

Local musician and band lead Errol Fisher says it's welcome news, since he has not able to perform as much since September 2020.

"Everything was locked down, restaurants, private functions, so this is great, very welcoming," he said. "Anything that allows us to perform is great, but it's disappointing that some places aren't part of the pilot project."

As the city has only chosen three wards for the pilot, other restaurant owners and BIAs are concerned they don't have the opportunity to offer live music on their patios.

Cafe Diplomatico owner Rocco Mastrangelo calls it a "great idea" but his 53-year-old restaurant is not in a participating ward.

"I'm a little disappointed that Little Italy did not get part of the pilot project," he said. "No neighbourhood should benefit more than other neighbourhoods."

"But it's a step in the right direction," Mastrangelo added.

Little Italy's BIA chair Lenny Lombardi agrees.

"Little Italy is one of the most visited, beloved neighbourhoods in the city," he said. "I understand the city wants to be cautious, but I wish we could've been included. I think all the BIAs and their restaurants, bars, and cafes need every advantage they can get."

Lombardi calls it a great program, and believes the city's concerns would be easy to manage.

"This is the shot in the arm that so many need," he said. "But it's a real shame we can't participate... now we're competing with our partners who have that opportunity."