This year marks the first summer of CaféTO as a permanent City of Toronto program with new requirements that will ensure the success and sustainability of the popular program over the long term while balancing the needs of local communities and businesses.
This week City crews began installing traffic safety equipment to safely close curb lanes and allow restaurant and bar owners and operators to open their permitted curb lane cafés. As per City Council direction, curb lanes closed beginning Monday, May 15, to provide adequate time to complete spring road maintenance and cleaning activities. Installation of traffic safety equipment will continue through June for all remaining approved CaféTO curb lane locations, including those within the 25 districts participating in the CaféTO Curb Lane Pilot Program.
The transition of CaféTO from a temporary emergency response initiative into a sustainable City program is making Toronto’s streets more attractive, safe and accessible while continuing to allow restaurants and bars to operate with expanded space outdoors. City staff are conducting detailed application reviews this year as part of the transition to a permanent program. This detailed review will enable quicker permit renewals in future years as returning CaféTO applicants can submit previously approved designs and plans.
An important program update, approved by Council in February, requires all operators to install a temporary accessible platform that makes their curb lane space level with the sidewalk. This design solution will significantly improve the accessibility, safety and aesthetic quality of curb lane cafés. Operators must submit a platform design stamped/signed by a licensed design professional (engineer, architect or BCIN designer) to the City by Saturday, July 1, to ensure it is safe and aligns with the permit space. Although operators are encouraged to install their temporary accessible platform as soon as possible, a temporary ramp from the sidewalk into the café area can be used until Tuesday, August 1, after which a platform must be installed.
In addition, to curb lane cafés, the City continues to receive sidewalk café permit applications, with approximately 500 permits provided to businesses across the city. Expanded outdoor dining opportunities on private property also continue this year with Temporary Use Zoning Bylaws permitting larger outdoor patios and allowing outdoor patios in parking lots.
Several financial supports are available to businesses and BIAs participating in CaféTO this year.
Operators are encouraged to apply for the CaféTO Property Improvement Program, which is accepting applications until Friday, June 30, or when the $1.5 million of available funds are expended. The program will match 50 per cent of the cost of eligible patio space improvements, including costs associated with renting, leasing or purchasing accessible temporary platforms, up to a maximum of $7,500 per operator. Applications are considered on a first-in, first-reviewed basis.
This program, available for the 2023 and 2024 CaféTO seasons, is funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) of its $18 million investment in the Toronto Main Street Recovery and Rebuild Initiative (MRRI). Application information is available on the CaféTO Property Improvement Program webpage.
The City’s BIA CaféTO grant program continues to support planter maintenance and curb lane closure design this year, providing up to $5,000 for eligible expenses.
In 2023, the City also continues to provide a 15 per cent reduction in the municipal property tax rate for eligible small business properties.
Information about other grants and small business supports is available at www.toronto.ca/business-incentives.
Information about patios on private property is available on the City’s website.
More details about CaféTO, including guidebooks, are available at www.toronto.ca/CafeTO.
Toronto is home to more than three million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses. For more information visit the City’s website or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.