toronto patios

Streetside patios are starting to pop up all around Toronto

Streetside patios are taking over Toronto's sidewalks as the CafeTO program is now allowing restaurants to set up airy operations outside their businesses.

Toronto Mayor John Tory says the project mission is to "protect jobs" and "bring vibrancy back to our streets."

"We want to do everything we can to provide a boost to the thousands of restaurants and bars in our city who are struggling with severe financial pressures," Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson adds in the CafeTO Guidelines.

Expanded patios are now permitted outside restaurants and bars on sidewalks and in curb lanes, as long as there is more than two metres of pedestrian clearway. No built structures are allowed, and tables must be two metres apart.

When it comes to serving booze on the sidewalk, guidelines say "A restaurant that has a current liquor licence and wishes to serve alcohol in an expanded area can do so without a temporary extension application to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO)" as long as it meets certain requirements.

"Our liquor license doesn't extend to the patio, but we're hoping the city amends that," says Melody Saari of Almond Butterfly on Dundas West, noting "we're not taking our chances" when it comes to restrictions like that.

Almond Butterfly has a few tables with umbrellas set up in front of the restaurant as well as the space next door which is currently vacant, which the landlord gave them permission to do.

She says they "already have people asking if they can make reservations" though they "literally just installed" the patio.

"I bet if you come here on the weekend, all tables will be full and you'll likely see us trying to put a few more out," says Saari.

"Definitely just having seating outside and the umbrellas has already helped increase business. It at least gives people some kind of option, and at this point we'll all take what we can get," she continues.

"It helped," says a spokesperson from Wolfie's Deli of their expanded patio. "People were desperate not to sit in their car."

Saari echoes this — apparently plenty of food lovers have turned into car diners. 

"We want to be respectful of our neighbours and the sidewalk traffic, but think the tables will offer brunch customers and alternative option rather than sitting in their car," she says.

Next door to Almond Butterfly, Patois also has a streetside patio set up but when reached for comment say they're "taking a step at a time" and that "it will be a couple days 'til we can assess the impact." They're starting out by serving boozy fresh coconut drinks, cocktails and beer.

Lead photo by

Melody Saari

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