On September 1, 2019, the new and harmonized bylaw (Chapter 742) for sidewalk cafés and marketing displays comes into effect. City Council adopted the bylaw in March 2019.

The harmonized bylaw will:

  • modernize the regulations and allow for new configurations, such as parklet cafés and curbside cafés
  • create consistent guidelines to address accessibility and pedestrian movement
  • standardize the application process for new permit applicants.

Existing conditions attached to permits issued before September 1 will continue to apply, but there will be updated obligations that current permit holders need to comply with.

Sidewalk café

Sidewalk cafés, or boulevard cafés, are outdoor eating areas located on a street where food or drink is served to the public by a licensed eating or drinking establishment.

Sidewalk cafés can have a variety of location and configurations:

Image of a frontage café. In this configuration, the outdoor seating is located against the front wall of the establishment.
Frontage Café
Frontage Café
A sidewalk café that is located immediately adjacent to the frontage wall of the associated establishment.

Image of a curbside café. In this configuration, the outdoor seating is located close to the curb. Pedestrians pass through between the frontage of the establishment and the outdoor seating area
Curbside Café
Curbside Café
A café that is located close to the curb. Pedestrians walk between the café and the building frontage. Wait staff cross the pedestrian clearway to deliver food and beverages to the café.

Image of a parklet café. In this configuration, the outdoor seating is located on a raised platform placed in the roadway. The platform is level with the curb so that the outdoor seating is accessible from the sidewalk.
Parklet Café
Parklet Café
A café that is located in the parking lane of a street upon a platform that is constructed to make the café level with and accessible from the sidewalk.

Image of fruit stand
Sidewalk Marketing Display

Sidewalk marketing display

Sidewalk marketing displays are used to display and sell goods, food or merchandise outside a commercial or industrial premise.  Goods in the display must be similar to those that are sold in the adjacent business.

Existing conditions that are attached to permits issued before September 1, 2019 will continue to apply. Permit holders must also comply with the following new requirements.

New obligations for permit holders starting September 1

  • All permit holders need to display their permit clearly in the front window or door.
  • Sidewalk café permit area cannot be used for storage of any café elements, such as tables and chairs stored over winter.
  • Frontage cafés can be used over winter, but owners must clear the sidewalk of snow and sand and salt the sidewalk. Failure to do this can result in the permit being temporarily suspended.
  • All other café configurations (e.g. curbside or parklet café) must be removed from the sidewalk from the period November 15 – April 14.
  • Marketing displays cannot display goods at a height where they can’t be reached by someone standing.

Updated permit fees

  • New permit fees take effect on September 1, 2019. Please see the Permit Fees section below for more details.
  • These permit fees will be phased in over a 10-year period for anyone who holds a permit prior to September 1, 2019.
  • If a permit holder is convicted under the new bylaw, then the 10-year phase-in ceases. The permit holder will have to start paying the full rate at their next renewal.

Small types allowed without permits

  • New small types of sidewalk cafés and marketing displays will be permitted as of September 1.
  • Please see the Small Types Allowed Without Permits section below for more details.

Amending or transferring a permit

  • Existing permit holders can take advantage of new café configurations, but must apply for a new application to do so.
  • This includes:
    • Frontage café
    • Curbside café
    • Parklet café
    • Extended frontage café
    • Extended curbside café
    • Extended parklet café
    • Frontage and curbside split café
    • Combined curbside and parklet café
    • Retractable café
    • Year-round winter café (cannot be enclosed and only for frontage cafés).
  • Existing permit holders wishing to transfer the permit are obligated to advise the new permit holder that the permit was legally installed, and that updated pedestrian clearway standards will be applied at the time of transfer.
  • Existing permit holders are obligated to inform the new permit holder that this could mean that the size of the permit area is amended or reduced when transferred.

As of September 1, 2019, the City will have new application requirements, café configurations, fees and a standardized application process.

Standardized application process

  • Complete applications need to be submitted to the Licence and Permit Issuing Office at 850 Coxwell Avenue. This includes applications in former Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough.

Permit fees

  • New permit fees take effect September 1. Please see the Permit Fees section below for more details.

New café configurations

  • New café configurations will provide additional business opportunities.
  • This includes:
    • Frontage café
    • Curbside café
    • Parklet café
    • Extended frontage café
    • Extended curbside café
    • Extended parklet café
    • Frontage and curbside split café
    • Combined curbside and parklet café
    • Retractable café
    • Year-round winter café (cannot be enclosed and only for frontage cafés).

New marketing display configuration

  • This includes extended frontage marketing displays.

Small types allowed without permits

  • New small types of sidewalk cafés and marketing displays will be permitted as of September 1.
  • Please see the Small Types Allowed Without Permits section below for more details.

Pedestrian clearance

  • Enhancing pedestrian movement and accessibility is a primary objective of the new bylaw.
  • New pedestrian clearway requirements respond to the context of different street types.
  • This includes a minimum 1.8 metres for local roads, 2.1 metres for arterial and collector roads, and 2.5 metre on specified Downtown Toronto streets.
  • Applicants can search the Road Classification System to identify the road type and minimum pedestrian clearance requirements that apply.

Public notices

  • All proposed cafés will need to post a notice for a period of 21 days. The local Business Improvement Area, local resident associations and the local Councillor will receive notification as part of the application process.
  • If the proposed café is on a local road, residents within a 60 metre radius will also be notified about the application.

Permit holder obligations

  • Permit holders need to display their permit on the street door or in the lower front window.
  • Sidewalk café permit area cannot be used for storage of any café elements, such as tables and chairs stored over winter.
  • Frontage cafés can be used over winter, but owners must clear the sidewalk of snow and salt and sand the sidewalk.
  • All other café configurations (e.g. curbside or parklet café) must be removed from the sidewalk from the period November 15 – April 14.
  • Marketing displays cannot display goods at a height where they can’t be reached by someone standing.

The following new encroachments will be allowed as of September 1. Applicants do not need permits for:

  • small frontage cafés
  • small curbside standing cafés
  • small marketing displays.

There are no associated fees with these encroachments, however they must confirm to the following conditions:

  • Only permitted where the minimum pedestrian clearway can be provided
  • Maximum dimension of 0.8m from the building wall x 5.5m wide
  • No fencing is permitted
  • Must be removed from the sidewalk at the end of each business day
  • A-frame signs on the sidewalk are not allowed if the width of the establishment is less than six metres.

The new bylaw will introduce two permit fee zones:

  • Central Zone: the downtown area defined in the map below. The boundaries are Bathurst Street to the west, the Dupont rail corridor to the north, Rosedale Valley to the north-east and Don River to the east.
  • Outer Zone: the remaining area outside of the central zone.
graphic of a map showing the boundaries of the fee zones: Rail Corridor, Rosedale Vallet, Don River, Lake Ontario and Bathurst Street
Map of Fee Zones. Click map to enlarge.

A permit fee is an annual fee that a business pays to the City for the right to use public space for commercial purposes. The following permit fees for sidewalk cafés and marketing displays take effect on September 1, 2019.

Fee Zone Sidewalk Café ($/m2) Marketing Display ($/m2)
Central Zone $88.31 $62.65
Outer Zone $44.14 $38.12

Permit fees for parklet cafés

  • Central Zone: $1,093/ month
  • Outer Zone: $683/month

Fee discounts

A 15% discount on permit fees and application fees applies to permits and new applications located in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas and Kensington Market.

Implementation of new permit fees

  • The new fees will apply in full for all applications submitted after September 1, 2019.
  • Permit fee increases to existing permit holders resulting from these new fees, will be phased in over 10 years
  • Permit fees (excluding parklet café fees) will not be subject to any inflationary increases until 2029.
  • Sidewalk café application fee is $865.
  • Marketing display application fee is $765.
  • Permit transfer fee: $676.27
  • There are no application or permit fees for small frontage cafés or small marketing displays, which are no more than 0.8m x 5.5m.

The new harmonized bylaw was informed by extensive consultations with the public and stakeholders. Since 2014, more than 30 consultations and public meetings were held throughout the city, as well as two online surveys. In 2017, summer students were hired to survey all sidewalk café and marketing display locations in the city. Information and data analysis from this survey informed recommendations. Groups consulted included café and marketing permit holders, local Business Improvement Areas, the Ontario Convenience Store Association, the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association, local resident and ratepayer groups, pedestrian and accessibility advocates and the general public.

View the presentation from the public consultation held on January 31, 2019.

A report recommending the harmonized bylaw was considered by City Council at its meeting of March 2019.