toronto patios

This is how Toronto bars and restaurants are getting ready for patio season

Bars and restaurants in Toronto are preparing their patios in the hopes that dining on them this summer won't be cancelled.

Patios could open any day now as part of a move to Stage 2 of reopening the province, though current emergency orders will not lift until at least June 9.

Retail businesses have already been allowed to welcome customers back inside, but restaurants and bars have not been given the go-ahead for dine-in and patio service.

In preparation for reopening with physical distancing measures, staff at bars and restaurants in Toronto have not only been spiffing up their spaces and furniture but making sure that they're ready to comply with health and safety protocols when customers are allowed back into their businesses.

Legendary Yorkville hangout Hemingway's, which has been around for decades, has been rehauling all four floors of their restaurant including their multiple popular rooftop patios.

"We have completely redesigned our floor plan on all four floors, ensuring physical distancing between tables, and more specifically people seated at tables. We've also designated walkways to keep patrons that are coming onto the patio away from patrons already seated," says Daimin Bodnar of Hemingway's.

"We've changed the flow from a customer standpoint, all patrons will now exit the Rooftop Patio onto Old York Lane rather than the main door on Cumberland. This minimizes unnecessary contact between patrons. We've also re-engineered our service flow, and have moved our POS screens to allow servers and bartenders to physical distance."

Since Hemingway's is currently open for takeout, all staff are entering through a side entrance where they do a COVID-19 screening test "which consists of a temperature check and questions related to COVID-19," says Bodnar. "They are then asked to sanitize and are provided a mask and gloves."

"There are sanitization stations all over the building and at all entrances and exits," he says.

"We have sourced excellent disinfectants and have increased the frequency of cleans. We have followed guidelines to reopen in BC as they opened a couple of weeks back, we eagerly await the specific guidelines for Ontario, but we will be able to adapt very quickly if necessary."

Hemingway's posted a photo of what their new physically distanced patio might look like once it reopens, and people can't wait to enjoy it, with comments like, "Let's get itttttt. More room to dance around the tables," "OMG can’t wait, have missed that patio so much." 

"Looks epic," "Im hoping to be one of the lucky few up there for my 30th birthday on June 27th. Fingers crossed," and "I love this lay out."

Plans have been announced to help restaurants and bars expand their patios to make up for the lack of capacity due to physical distancing.

El Catrin started a weekend curbside taco takeout service on June 5, but has also been gearing up to potentially open their patio.

"From a staff perspective, they launched a survey to see if their staff felt safe going back to work and had an overwhelmingly positive response. All staff have been asked to share their travel plans and are required to have their temperature checked upon arrival for their shift," says a spokesperson for El Catrin.

"They've set up the patio floorplan for social distancing so that guests have enough space while they're seated. There's signage on the floor keeping guests six feet apart, sanitizers at the entry and exits, and the staff are all equipped with masks and gloves to be worn during their shifts. 

"The entry and exit points are one-way only and the bathrooms are being sanitized every fifteen minutes."

"Almost everyone who gets to take out from us has said they will come and support us on our patio when it opens," says Jesse Ritchie of Score on King.

"We are in a lucky position of having our Vancouver location open for three weeks now so we've been through what needs to happen to open Toronto so we are ready to open with confidence."

"We have built some partitions between the booths and already looked at maximizing our seating with the restrictions that will come into place."

Ritchie says they'll make any adjustments necessary to comply with restrictions that might differ from Vancouver's and here in Toronto, and that "Our staff are very excited to come back to work as well."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez


Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in Eat & Drink

The top 5 beer gardens in Toronto

This is how things are going at Toronto restaurants with patio service

This is how to get fresh picked berries and fruit delivered to your home in Toronto

Legendary Toronto diner closes after 63 years

Popular coffee chain just shut down all Toronto locations

10 cocktails you need to drink in Toronto this summer

Toronto's newest beer garden brings life back to quiet brewery

These are the farmers' markets still operating in Toronto during summer 2020