What's the holdup on new patios in Toronto?
One of the boons of rising tempatures across the city is that with them comes the onset of patio season. But some spots, unfortunately lag in the realm of outdoor expansion, concentrating their eats inside and leaving their front and sides sadly unoccupied.
Chances are, these restaurants share in your wistful patio longings, but as with most things that involve City of Toronto bureaucracy, bringing their plans to fruition is easier said than done. I recently spoke with the owners of Campagnolo on Dundas West, who are currently jumping through the City's hoops in order to build a patio for their well-liked Italian eatery.
"It's kind of like opening a second restaurant," says Craig Harding, who chats with me as he makes a trip out to East York City Hall in pursuit of yet another element of his patio's approval. "We needed a new and separate liquor license, and since the city owns the property, there are all sort of other approvals we need to get before going forward."
There are far too many patio regulations to list comprehensively, but details can be as specific as the type of supports permitted to anchor a patio fence and precise distance from the curb permitted by law. Craig found himself in violation of one of the conditions â that is, his proposed patio would be less than 25 metres from a residential zone.
"For that reason," he explains, "the City has to poll the neighbourhood." Craig literally went door-to-door, telling residents about his patio plans and asking them to vote in favour. "I explained to them that we are a restaurant, not a bar, and that everything would close up by 11 p.m." But the vote got insufficient return, and for that reason, approval was denied.
"So then," Craig continues, "we had to go door-to-door to get signatures." Craig says Councillor Mike Layton was a huge help to him and partner Alexandra Hutchison, adding that Layton took the appeal to a community council meeting last month.
"It was one of 35 or 40 that were trying it get through that day," he says of his claim. "And it got approved in about 30 seconds. Something that took nine months, and it was approved in 30 seconds."
Craig and Alexandra are now working with Economic Development Culture and Tourism to figure out which trees and plants are required for their patio to move forward. "The whole thing can be such a blur." Alexandra says. "There are just so many boxes to check."
Woodlot is another nearby restaurant that has, finally, just finished its box-checking, again with the help of Layton. Owner Robyn Donio says the process took plenty time (though she was prepared for a wait after hearing stories from friends in the industry) and approval for Woodlot's patio came about two months ago.
Whereas the failing for Campagnolo was its proximity to residential neighbours, for Woodlot, according to Robyn, it has been about noise. Trying to quell fears of another Octopus Lounge hitting the neighbourhood, Woodlot's owners sought thousands of signatures, which was eventually enough to push the next stage of development forward. Construction is nearly complete on the 24-seat patio, though, of course, it will open only after another city-driven inspection.
In any case, Toronto will likely see a few new patios sprout up this summer, but chances are the seed was planted long, long ago.
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