patios open toronto

Toronto is finally starting to feel alive again as curbside patios bring vibrancy back to the city

It may not be as busy, carefree, or easy to participate in as we've come to expect, but this year's patio season could just be the most joyful in Toronto history.

More and more restaurants have been reopening their (out)doors to the public each day since June 24, when Toronto entered Stage 2 of the province's reopening process, allowing bars, restaurants and cafes across the city welcome customers back after nearly four months of pandemic-mandated closures.

Being that establishments can only legally serve patrons outside at this point, hundreds of business owners have actually built new patios where previously none existed — a whole host of them on city sidewalks and curb lanes.

Restaurants with existing patios have furthermore been getting bigger, thanks in large part to regulatory amendments from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario that allow all liquor license holders to extend their patios for the rest of 2020.

Alleyways, storefronts and even parking lots have all now been proven suitable for use as temporary patio spaces in the City of Toronto.

The abundance of creative new outdoor dining spaces, coupled with consistently hot and sunny weather, seems to have the people of Toronto more stoked to sit on patios than ever before right now.

Residents of the city are already known to love patio season, sure, but outdoor dining spaces hold a special significance for the summer of 2020.

Normally, the arrival of restaurant patio service signifies the end of a long, cold winter. In this, the cursed year of 2020, it represents not only summertime, but a partial end to restrictive lockdown measures meant to help mitigate a deadly viral outbreak.

Ontario has now been under a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 crisis since March 17. Before patios reopened a few weeks ago, the only way to enjoy food from local restaurants was to order takeout or delivery.

Staff at bars and restaurants have suffered greatly on account of the pandemic, as have small business owners, some of whom have lost everything thanks to stalled revenue streams.

The re-emergence of eager customers in neighbourhoods dominated by bars, restaurants and cafes has been a welcome sight for many.

Sure, there have been hiccups, and some people are critical of the government for allowing patios to reopen at all. 

Establishments will likely have to keep modifying their operations as workers adjust to these unprecedented circumstances and some will be slower to reopen than others.

Still, long wait times, occasional overcrowding, and other hassles aside, Toronto is starting to feel more like itself again with a steady stream of patrons posting up outside their favourite local haunts.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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