Toronto might soon have a lot fewer patios
Earlier this week there was a meeting at city hall that could change patio culture in Toronto forever, and not in a good way.
Annual licensing fees for patio spaces paid by restaurants, bars and cafes to the city haven't been reviewed since the GTA amalgamation in 1998, but in this most recent meeting the city is proposing a 350-400% tax increase. That's just below what patios in Manhattan currently pay.
It means existing bars, restaurants and cafes with sidewalk patios would have to pay upwards of $10,000 at the beginning of each year to operate their outdoor space.
While this fee would be phased in over time to existing licenses, it would take place immediately for any new patio applications.
"The war on fun continues in the city of Toronto," says Richard Pope, owner of Northwood on Bloorcourt. "They do want to kill patios, there's no question about that. They make it harder and harder and this seems like a back handed effort to continue that."
Pope currently pays $1,400 to the city to operate his patio, but once these new taxes come in, he would be paying $14,000 and that means he'd have to downsize the patio space or close it down all together.
This City of Toronto document outlines the current fees businesses need to pay the city, and you can watch the entire Sidewalk Cafes and Marketing Displays: Fee Review - Municipal Licensing and Standards video via the city's YouTube channel.
"Patios create vibrancy in the neighbourhood, more people are walking around, it creates a safer, more interesting neighbourhood," Pope says. "The city is too afraid politically to raise property taxes so they're coming for small businesses."
In a statement e-mailed to us from Carleton Grant, Director, Policy and Strategic Support at the City of Toronto, he says the city is reviewing the bylaws and nothing is final.
"At this meeting we heard very clearly that the initial proposed permit fees, as presented, were too high. This was valuable feedback for us, and will be taken carefully into consideration during the review, which is ongoing and has not been finalized."
City staff will prepare a report with recommendations in April, 2017.
Jesse Milns at Northwood
Join the conversation Load comments