pennies toronto

Toronto bar struggling to get approval for expanded patio because of bikes

The new Toronto patio program has allowed bars and restaurants to create or expand their patios — but for one local establishment it hasn't been that easy.

Pennies, a bar near King and Strachan, known for sliders and cheap drinks, is one restaurant having trouble getting the city to allow them to create more space for their customers to drink and dine.

The bar currently has an outdoor patio on the north side of their restaurant but attempts to expand on the west side facing Strachan have hit a stag because there's a double Bike Share dock in the way.

James Bateman, Pennies' owner, has reached out to Toronto councillor Joe Cressy to have it removed.

According to Bateman, Cressy told him to wait for his patio to be approved and then he would offer his "full support to move the bikes."

Now, two weeks later, Pennies has received approval for their new patio but according to Bateman when he reached out to the councillor again, "there was radio silence."

So Bateman and the Pennies team took matters into their own hands and set up a makeshift patio around the double bike dock.

That's when Toronto Parking Authority informed Pennies they were blocking the bike dock and would be charged.

"They came on site and set the bikes back up after 48 hours," said Bateman.

Now a meeting has been set for next Friday to discuss the bikes being moved. It can't come soon enough.

"The urgency still isn’t there," Bateman said. "Summer is a limited time and we don’t know what the fall will look like. We need to make money today to offset losses from March-May closures and they’re not getting the urgency."

Bateman, and the whole Pennies team have even been searching for nearby places where the bike dock could move.

"Less than a two-minute walk from the bar, there's an empty Toronto Parking Authority lot," said Chloe Castonguay, who does marketing and social media for the bar. "It's such a simple request. We're doing the homework and finding other spaces for the bike docks."

With patio season already cut short due to the pandemic, Pennies was really counting on this expansion.

Their northside patio can seat up to 50 people with COVID safety measures and the westside extension would allow for approximately 24 people.

"This is costing us thousands of dollars in revenue every few days," Bateman said. "We are losing money everyday."

According to Castonguay, Pennies has already invested money into COVID-related safety measures including hand sanitizing stations, disposable menus, and detailing on the ground to indicate lineups with proper spacing.

Tables are ready to be arranged for social distancing, a hostess will be at the front to control seating, and masks will be required when customers use the bathroom.

Wyndham Bettencourt-McCarthy, director of strategic communications and initiatives at Councillor Joe Cressy's office, assured BlogTO that their office has been working with Pennies to advance their patio application and relocate the nearby Bike Share docks.

"Councillor Cressy supports their CaféTO application and has asked city staff to move the Bike Share docks as a priority," Bettencourt-McCarthy said.

She said they have been assured by Bike Share Toronto that the docks will be moved but are still awaiting a confirmed date. 

"It is important to clarify that local councillors do not have authority to individually direct the location of Bike Share docks," she said. "We will be continuing, however, to work on this issue and ensure that action is taken." 

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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