toronto patios

Toronto bar starts GoFundMe to pay for city's prohibitive guidelines for patios this year

As Toronto gets deeper into the thick of patio season, the city is being treated to even more spaces to eat, drink and support local businesses thanks to the curb lane and sidewalk patios that continue to pop up this summer through the popular and lucrative CafeTO program.

The initiative to offer bars, restaurants and coffee shops a chance to garner more business — and patrons more opportunities to enjoy summer outdoors — with expanded patio space was a hit over the lockdown months, and while many were looking forward to its return this year, there have been quite a few snags.

Restaurateurs are saying that compared to previous years, the process to acquire or renew a permit for 2023 has been a monumental struggle full of new red tape, higher fees, delays and a glut of unanticipated rejections.

Management at busy spots such as Bar Volo and Le Swan have revealed that their applications were, to their dismay, rejected this month despite having no issue licencing the same patios the last few years.

The program's prohibitive new rules and requirements have apparently become such a problem for establishments that one has set up a GoFundMe to help cover the costs necessary to get their patio approved.

"This year the City of Toronto’s CafeTO program has added some new shiny red tape discourage many small businesses to decline using one of the most community defining programs. With that red tape comes many permits and money that most independent businesses simply cannot afford," explain owners of Brockton Village staple Laylow on the donation page.

"You will notice many restaurants, bars and cafes have already opted out. Laylow on the other hand has already done the ground work."

In order for the chill watering hole's outdoor terrace to meet this year's guidelines, it has to have a temporary accessible platform that is linear to the curb and is designed and signed off on by a professional licensed engineer, architect or other designer.

The page and the brewery's social media says donations, which have reached $2,825 of a $4,000 goal at the time of publication, will cover the designer's fee, as well as construction.

"Summer time and livin' (ain't) easy... now is the time not to laylow and come out and support not just us, but all small business this summer," the team writes.

We can only hope that the city takes the indignation about the new CafeTO restrictions into account when continuing the program in the future.

Staff did say in a press release last week the that updated requirements "ensure the continued benefits and sustainability of the program for restaurants while balancing a range of needs for residents and other businesses," and that "the detailed application reviews performed this year will enable quicker permit renewals in future years."

For now, it seems that Laylow and other businesses impacted have garnered a fair share of support from the public, which will hopefully be enough for them to still have a great season.

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