CaféTO patio

City votes to make the CaféTO program permanent in Toronto

CaféTO is considered by many to be one of the best public space initiatives to come out of the pandemic, and helped many restaurants survive through a very dismal period. Now, the Toronto city council has just voted to approve a plan that will see the program become a permanent fixture.

“CaféTO is good for restaurants and residents. The CaféTO program has helped more than 1,200 restaurants and main streets across the city and provided millions of dollars in support for the restaurant industry throughout the pandemic,” said Mayor John Tory, in a statement. “This successful program supports operators, protects jobs, and creates vibrancy. It’s one of many important initiatives I’m proud we have put into place and I know it will help Toronto come back from the pandemic stronger than ever, while also providing much-needed support to local businesses for years to come.”

The CaféTO 2022 and Beyond staff report was adopted by the city council by a vote of 23-2 with only councillors Stephen Holyday and Michael Ford voting against it.

Approximately 500 restaurants city-wide have permanent permits for sidewalk cafés. This year, 429 more were added through CaféTO.

Making the program permanent gives city restaurants and cafés clarity going forward with expanding outdoor dining options, something that the industry was asking for, including Eataly Canada’s managing director Nico Dagnino, who wrote a letter to the city on the issue asking for a longer-term approach.

Dagnino proposed making CaféTO a more permanent fixture in the city by extending the program five years and expanding locations. He wrote that the benefit to the city is a blooming café culture found in some of the best cities around the world.

“We are witnessing a city with a café culture and open-air program rivaling other cities where Eataly has opened its doors, such as Rome, Paris, London, and New York City,” he wrote. “As citizens and visitors to these cities cannot imagine life without an outdoor café experience, Toronto is setting expectations that daily life must include high-quality outdoor hospitality experiences.”

According to the city, CaféTO curb lane (on-street) cafés will return in 2022, under similar guidelines and requirements from the 2021 program, and all application, transfer and with today’s City Council vote all permit fees for curb lane, sidewalk cafés, and public parklets will be waived next year. Registration will open early in the new year and installation will start as soon as May.

A new registration process is on the way for permanent CaféTO locations, which the city hopes to make fast and streamlined so restaurant operators only need to apply once. Existing locations can remain in place until April 14, 2022.

According to the findings of a public survey by the city, 91 per cent of those responding showed “overwhelming support for the program.”

Article exclusive to TRNTO