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CafeTO Approval Issues

After hearing about the delays on Toronto’s CafeTO approvals, we have been meeting with the City’s officials for a speedy resolution. In addition, ORHMA President and CEO Tony Elenis joined Libby Znaimer’s radio show this past week to bring media attention on the issue. To listen, click here.

The CaféTO program was initiated by the City of Toronto following the provincial approval in allowing patio extensions during the COVID-19 pandemic. These extensions supported many restaurants to keep their doors open and continue to employ their workers.

It was a seamless way of extending these patios. Waiting times for registration were eliminated keeping in mind these restaurants folks have a pre-approved liquor license to operate their restaurants. Registrations to the extensions were only a process that occurred after the openings. Both the AGCO and the City moved quickly and supported this initative. Patio fees were removed on account of the devastation. The City of Toronto took this opportunity and branded it into CafeTO and assigned a support team dedicated to the program.

Now that we are moving into the post-pandemic period it seems that although the City is continuing with the CafeTO brand we are back to a fee structure, modifications in platforms that come with a cost and now waiting for delays of application approvals. In talking with many operators, we are back to the red tape of scrutinizing each and every patio’s location and feasibility in operating. Yet restaurants that have to modify patio platforms to meet the City’s rules and have to work with the city deadlines.

A main problem seems to be City driven in construction relating to bike lanes and alterations to curbs and sidewalks. It is well known that the never-ending construction is taking a bite out of locals’ and visitors’ city experiences and putting additional pressure on the City’s critical traffic congestion. It is directly hampering patio approvals and one would question the timing: why now when patio openings are underway?

The sunny weather is upon us and without patios being open, this translates to revenue losses. In normal times, summer conditions make or break a restaurant. In these post-pandemic times where workforce and inflation have escalated restaurant costs, it’s devastating.

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