UPDATED – CafeTO: A New Opportunity to Support Local Business

This week, Council formally adopted the CafeTO program that the City had announced two weeks ago (see below).  The program is designed to make it easier, and less expensive, for restaurants to open patios in front of their business. This is an initiative that John strongly supports.

Since the decision on Monday, our office has met with City staff to establish a consistent approach along our stretch of Yonge Street to maximize opportunities for patio space.  In some cases, finding that space on existing narrow sidewalks will be challenging.  While curb lanes can be used in some cases, there needs to be a clear 2.1 m for pedestrians at all times.  Using the curb lane, for pedestrian travel, or for seating, must also be balanced with the ongoing need for temporary 10 minute parking to facilitate curbside pickup.

We are fortunate to have a number of organizations engaged on promoting patios in the neighbourhood, including the Korean Canadian Business Association, and the steering committee working to establish a BIA in Willowdale.  Several community volunteers, along with staff from our office, will be reaching out to businesses with these organizations to help establish the best possible plan for Yonge Street as we work to support our local business community.

Business owners who want to put in a new patio, or to extend ones they’ve already installed, can visit www.toronto.ca/cafeto.  For more information, or to connect with the BIA steering committee, please contact me at Jesse.James@toronto.ca.

– Jesse James

— Published June 23, 2020 —

Restaurants represent the pulse of our local business ecosystem, a magnet that draws people out to our main street, providing places for community members to come together in friendship and for celebrations. Restaurants are among the hardest hit businesses during the pandemic, which is why the City has launched several programs to assist them. These include deferral of property tax payments and digital supports to help them transition into online sales and pickup services.

Now, as Toronto moves closer to a Stage 2 re-opening which will allow restaurant patios to reopen with strict public health measures, the city has launched CafeTO, a new program to make it easier for restaurants and bars to open patios while there are still several months left for outdoor dining.

In Willowdale, this could mean allowing restaurants to move partly into sidewalk areas where there are opportunities to move pedestrians into the curb lanes. This may be inconvenient for some, but we ask you to consider how important restaurants our to our community and how precarious their financial situation in during this difficult time.

We recognize that supporting expanded patios must be part of a comprehensive plan that will accommodate space for short term parking to enable takeout and delivery services, as well as providing adequate space for pedestrians to maintain physical distancing.  Last week, the City began to implement several elements of the CurbTO program on Yonge Street, repurposing the curb lanes following recent construction work on the road.  We expect that this program will expand over the coming weeks to accommodate CafeTO applications.

We remain encouraged by the opportunity to take significant steps towards a more “main street” approach to Yonge Street at a time when it is most desperately needed.  The CafeTO program will be reviewed by the Executive Committee next week before final approval by City Council.  Registration is already open for restaurant owners interested in participating.

We also encourage all business operators on Yonge Street between Finch and Highway 401 to connect with the BIA formation steering committee at WillowdaleBIA.com.  The purpose of a BIA is to attract more customers and offer support to all businesses in the area.  We remain hopeful this process can be completed in 2020. Members of the community can continue to support restaurants by ordering meals from local providers.  We continue to maintain a list of local options offering delivery – and encourage community members to send us new suggestions.

– Markus O’Brien Fehr