Toronto patio rules

Toronto just can't figure out how to let restaurants have patios

For a city where "patio season" is celebrated harder than every national holiday combined, Toronto is really weird about patios.

The bylaws regulating who, what, when, where, why and how restaurants can operate their own outdoor spaces are dizzying.

They've also been inconsistent across the GTA for a long time, which is why The Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee has been working to "harmonize" bylaws and fees for "sidewalk cafes, parklets and marketing displays" in Toronto.

Earlier this year, the committee got business owners riled up when it recommended boosting fees for restaurant and bar owners who operate patios by up to 400 per cent as part of the harmonization initiative – just below what it costs to run a patio in Manhattan right now.

Now, we have new and updated details about the project from a report that will be considered early next month by the Joint Licensing and Standards and Public Works and Infrastructure Committees.

It's a long report with lots of numbers, measurements and nuanced rules surrounding permit applications and approvals. You can read the entire thing here.

Toronto retractable patios

One of several sidewalk cafe design options from a report outlining the proposed new bylaw and fees for patios in Toronto. Image via The City of Toronto.

The report also provides some new design options for sidewalk cafes and proposes the introduction of "retractable cafes," which are pretty cool.

Toronto journalist Matt Elliot already took the liberty of pulling out some highlights for his Twitter followers, one of which is almost comedically minute.

"Currently, applications for café locations on arterial roads are refused if there is one objection," reads the text from Page 46 of the report.

Under the proposed new rules they would increase the threshold to two objections.

So there you have it. Should the proposed new bylaw and fees for sidewalk cafés, parklets and marketing displays in Toronto be approved by City Council, a citizen can no longer single-handedly prevent a patio from opening up near where they live.

They'll need a friend to complain, too.

Lead photo by

Jesse Milns


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