Toronto

John Tory says he's pro-patio, won't back massive fee hikes floated by staff

Toronto Mayor John Tory says he won't "attack fun" by dramatically increasing fees for businesses that operate patios on city sidewalks.

Staff proposal to bring prices in line with uptown Manhattan blasted by business owners

Businesses with patios could be paying a lot more for the city sidewalk space they're using if a staff proposal goes ahead. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Toronto Mayor John Tory says he won't "attack fun" by dramatically increasing fees for businesses that operate patios on city sidewalks.

Tory, who told reporters he's a big fan of patios, said he was shocked by the price hike city staff suggested at a consultation earlier this week, which would bring yearly prices nearly in line with those in uptown Manhattan.  

"I thought I was having a nightmare," he said.

The city's licensing and standards committee asked staff to look into the issue because the same fees have been in place since the 1990s and are not the same across the city.

Cafes in Etobicoke and York, for example, pay nearly $750 to apply for a patio permit, while in the former East York, the fee is only $55.

In downtown Toronto, it costs $239 to apply for a permit. The city could raise that fee to $1,332.45.

Business owners would also pay six times more for every square metre of sidewalk they use.

The average downtown cafe using 23 square metres of space, a staff presentation says, would pay $6,264 — up from the current price of $1,810. Municipal Licensing and Standards officials noted that businesses would see the increases phased-in over a five year period, if they were approved.

Proposal would cut other smaller fees

The proposed changes, which aren't in this year's city budget, would also do away with several smaller fees and redraw the boundary map to better reflect its areas (think "downtown" and "midtown," as opposed to "Toronto Area 1").

Staff said the price hikes would amount to business owners paying some 55 per cent of the market value of the city sidewalk they're using. That market value was assessed by Toronto's Real Estate Services.

Tory said the fees do need to be adjusted so the city is fairly compensated for giving up that public space, but any increase should be reasonable.

A final report that incorporates business owners' perspectives on the fees will be presented in mid-April.

If the fees were approved, they would take effect in 2018, staff said, though city council will still have a say. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Rieti is the senior producer of digital at CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country. In Toronto, he's covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. Outside of work, catch him cycling in search of the city's best coffee.

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