City council, restaurateurs try to find compromise in permanent CafeTO proposal

6 February 2023 / by Daniel Centeno

City councillors continue to discuss the future of the CaféTO pilot project, and whether it should become a permanent fixture as the city enters a transitional phase amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Toronto Mayor John Tory presided over the recent meeting, hearing the presentation of the project’s future from Transportation Division services general manager Barbara Gray. 

CaféTO is a success story for our hospitality industry, and has enhanced the look and feel of our city,” Tory said. “As we move out of the COVID-19 pandemic, proposed changes will make CaféTO more sustainable for years to come.”

The popular pilot project allowed restaurants to expand outdoor seating when indoor dining was limited during the height of COVID. 

Installations on the sidewalks and into the city roads accommodated the extra customers. 

The steady flow of customers allowed many local businesses to stay afloat during COVID. 

Deputations at the meeting welcomed the continuation of the project, however they disagree with the increased costs to keep it going. 

They pointed out that restaurants are still recovering from the pandemic, and have yet to recoup the same revenue levels before the lockdowns. 

Further, deputations said restaurants are still dealing with the expenses during the lockdown and a period labour shortages.

The new proposal for continuing CaféTO includes a one-time application fee of about $865.00. 

Also, there will be yearly payments of $132.00 per square metre on curb lanes and $44.14 per square metre on sidewalk lanes for the installations. 

Sidewalk lanes for extra seating is estimated to be $14,000. At the moment, the city’s grants may cover up to $7,500 if businesses are deemed eligible according to the city of Toronto website. 

Through the CaféTO Property Improvement Program, businesses must submit applications to be eligible for these grants.

Decisions on the future of the project as Toronto’s patio season is set to return in the spring are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. 

More details to come. 

Listen to CJRU’s coverage of the CaféTO permanent proposal: