toronto patios reopening

This is when Toronto's curb lane patios will start reopening once again

While last summer may already feel like a distant memory and next summer an unattainable dream, there's no question that many Toronto residents would do pretty much anything to be drinking on a patio on a hot sunny day right about now. 

Fortunately, the curb lane patios introduced through the city's CaféTO program will be opening much earlier than they did last summer thanks to city council's approval of a bigger and better version for 2021.

"The first wave of registration for the expanded CaféTO program will begin in late February and, pending public health orders, the first approved CaféTO curb lane closure locations for 2021 would be in installed as soon as May – almost two months earlier than last year," reads a news release announcing the approval of the improved program Friday.

In the summer of 2020, CaféTO helped 801 restaurants in 62 BIAs as well as 96 restaurants outside BIAs by converting 9,683 metres of traffic lanes into new outdoor dining space for restaurants.

And according to a city-led CaféTO study of approximately 2,800 respondents comprised of restaurant and bar owners/operators and members of the public, 95 per cent said they want to see the program operate again in 2021.

Roughly 90 per cent of those surveyed also said were "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with their patio experience, and 66 per cent of operators said their restaurant would not have been financially viable without CaféTO.

This year, city staff will work closely with BIAs and local restaurant and bar operators to make a number of improvements to the program, including updating the registration process to make it clearer and more straightforward with registrations starting sooner. 

Staff will also develop comprehensive and safe traffic management plans to help make sure the curb lane cafés are as a safe as possible, support quick CaféTO installations so that they can begin helping businesses as soon as possible once winter is over, and allow some owners to build decks and platforms for patios where applicable. 

Additionally, the new and improved program will ensure there is accessible furniture for public parklet areas, and it will help more restaurants outside of city's downtown core take advantage of opportunities for quick expansion of outdoor dining.

"We are bringing CaféTO back and it will be bigger and better this year," said Mayor John Tory in a statement.

"The restaurant operators and BIAs we have heard from are enthusiastic about the return of this program because it has helped local businesses stay in business, helped protect jobs, and CaféTO has improved the quality of life in our city for residents."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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