CafeTO program

Proposing CaféTO program changes for 2023 and beyond

eAwaz Lifestyle

Toronto – City of Toronto proposed CaféTO program changes that will advance the transition of CaféTO from a temporary emergency response initiative into a sustainable program that makes Toronto’s streets more attractive, safe and accessible while continuing to allow restaurants and bars to operate with expanded space outdoors.

The proposed changes will ensure CaféTO installations are beautiful, active, and accessible.

At its meeting on Tuesday, January 31, Executive Committee will discuss the staff report that recommends returning to standard permit processes for all right-of-way café types that were in place before the COVID-19 pandemic. The report includes recommended updates to the outdoor dining bylaw to reflect the transformative and supportive nature of CaféTO and a response to existing City Council direction to establish criteria for a safe, active, accessible and attractive permanent curb lane café program.

The report recommends the City continue to support CaféTO and subsidize permit fees through approximately $1.4 million in financial support this year. The City has supported CaféTO with more than $20 million in funding over the life of the program. A 2022 economic impact study from Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) and funded by the City found that the program delivered $203 million in economic benefits to Toronto in 2022, and that CaféTO diners spent an estimated $179 million on patios from May through September.

The report recommends returning to the existing requirement of constructing temporary platforms in curb lane café permit areas to ensure curb lane cafés are fully accessible, and to increase safety near on-street patios and address concerns about equitable program access. The report also contains a recommended grant program to assist businesses in meeting these requirements.

The report also recommends reinstating the one-time application fee and updated permit fees for curb lane cafés and sidewalk cafés across the city as costs for this program are currently borne entirely by the City. These proposed program changes are designed to encourage co-investment with the City in the program from restaurant and bar owners and to ensure café installations are safe and accessible while supporting the viability of the curbside area.

Two grants for small businesses and Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) will continue in 2023:

  • The CaféTO Property Improvement Program will match 50 per cent of the cost of eligible patio space improvements up to a maximum of $7,500. The program is fully funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and supports the Toronto Main Street Recovery and Rebuild Initiative (MRRI).
  • The City’s BIA CaféTO grant program will support planter maintenance and curb lane closure design. BIAs are eligible to receive up to $5,000.

The CaféTO program began in 2020 to help bar and restaurant operators during the pandemic by providing safe, expanded outdoor dining areas in the public right-of-way while indoor dining capacities were restricted. In late 2021, Council approved a plan to transition many of CaféTO’s temporary processes into a permanent program, starting with a return to standard sidewalk café permitting and a streamlined administration and application process.

1,327 establishments across the City have taken advantage of CaféTO in 2022, 1,213 in 2021 and 801 in 2020. In addition to making CaféTO permanently accessible, the City is committed to supporting small businesses in the 2023 budget by protecting the 15 per cent property tax reduction that 29,000 small businesses in Toronto currently benefit from.

Read the CaféTO staff report.

More information about the program is available on the City’s CaféTO webpage.

More information about the CaféTO Property Improvement Program grant is available on the CaféTO Property Improvement Program webpage.

Toronto Main Street Recovery and Rebuild Initiative (MRRI) is available on the City’s website.

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