cafeto toronto

Toronto restaurants say they're having a tougher time getting patio licenses this year

Toronto restaurants are having a harder time this year get their special pandemic patio licenses.

Roncesvalles BBQ restaurant Barque applied for one, under the program called CafeTO, on side street Geoffrey next to their restaurant, but the application was denied due to zoning issues. The neighbourhood seems to want it there, though, so there's a petition going around.

"Neighbourhood Facebook groups and email lists have lit up with enthusiastic support for us," Barque owner David Neinstein tells blogTO.

"Dozens of Roncy residents have called and written CafeTO and the Councillor's office to demand an explanation and to provide their support for us, their local businesses. We are overwhelmed and incredibly touched with the massive show of support."

Roncesvalles is hard hit by application denials because, according to Neinstein, they "have not met the very narrow parameters for approval of CafeTO patios." Just down the road, The Dizzy has also been denied their application, a planter box in front of the business impeding setting up a patio there.

"I have a spot just north of the planter box that we were told last year would be ideal for CafeTO seats by the BIA and the city engineer. Now this year our application has been denied," says Dizzy owner Chris Murie.

"This one size fits all approach by the city has really left a lot of great places to find other ways of surviving. It's been a tough year and even one extra table could help pay our rent once things are safe to offer outdoor food service."

Melody Saari operates locations of her gluten-free cafe Almond Butterfly both on Dundas West and on Harbord, and says getting the Harbord location licensed for a patio has been a nightmare recently and that she's been suddenly told that location is licensed for takeout only, meaning they shouldn't have any seating or a CafeTO license.

"It’s hard to get a straight answer from the city or even to speak with the same individual, so it has been frustrating," Saari tells blogTO.

She says the Harbord BIA has spoken to the City and should be able to get Almond Butterfly an exception.

One Toronto bar says the city told them this year they don't have enough clearance on their sidewalk. But they say they got their license last year no problem.  

The owner of the bar, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the clearance issue was never enforced last year and that they "could have just had a nice guy" and that "anytime an inspector came, they told us everything was fine."

The bar owner says that a tree and a bike ring that aren't directly in front of his business are what's they're told is interfering with the sidewalk clearance.

The owner says the patio was the only way his bar survived last year, as liquor sales don't translate well to takeout.

"Nobody complained or had an issue with the amount of space left available on the sidewalk," they say. "I just wish the city wouldn't create barriers for businesses who've been shit on by COVID for the last 13-plus months."

As many wish their CafeTO patios were already open, confusion and struggles surrounding getting licensed are only adding to the frustration restaurant, bar and cafe owners across the city are feeling right now.

Lead photo by

Jeremy Gilbert

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