TORONTO – Distressed restaurants in Toronto are considering a return to al fresco dining as early as May.
The city is on the verge of rolling out a bigger and better version of CafeTO, the municipal program that helps expand patios on sidewalks and streets during the pandemic.
“CafeTO gave us hope, it gave us reason to be optimistic, it was a way for us to get out and do it safe,” Councilor Brad Bradford told CTV News Toronto.
“I think everyone is very anxious to get out of this latest lockdown, the temperatures are heating up and getting back out there when it’s safe to do so. “
The 2021 version of the plan involved streamlining the application process and allowing bridges and platforms to onboard more companies. Terrace fees would be waived for participating restaurants.
“In the restaurant business the margins are very slim so this is a high volume business,” said Mary Fragedakis of Greektown in the Danforth Business Improvement Area on Tuesday.
“If you don’t have the volume, you can’t make money.”
Last year, the city completed nearly 10,000 meters of curbside track with 7,000 blocks, pylons and planters to make way for alfresco dining. Two-thirds of the 801 restaurants that participated said the expansion of alfresco dining was what kept their businesses alive during the pandemic.
Program costs include $ 987,000 for curb lane closure equipment, traffic plans and other operational needs; $ 775,000 lost in revenue for waived patio fees; and $ 2,500,000 in lost revenue for lost on-street parking.
The city hopes the program will be operational from May, if public health protocols allow.