During the spring season, I began advocating to City Staff on the exciting prospect of using curb lanes in Toronto for outdoor dining. I was thrilled to see this initiative come alive and pass at Council just months ago. Over this past summer you may have noticed and possibly even dined at dozens of the curb lane patios that popped up across Toronto as part of the CaféTO program, which aims to provide more outdoor dining areas to help some restaurants and bars create physical distancing for patrons on patios. With indoor capacity restrictions due to the pandemic, CafeTO has provided a lifeline to restaurant owners and their employees. It’s also created a vibrant patio culture Toronto’s needed for years.
With cooler fall weather approaching, the City of Toronto has announced plans to allow portable heaters to be placed in all outdoor patios, including CaféTO curb lane closures, to help keep outdoor dining spaces open longer and provide additional support for local restaurants.
The CaféTO program is due to end in late fall (pending snowfall in weather forecasts) and allowing restaurant operators to safely introduce portable heaters will help make outdoor dining more appealing to customers, encourage physical distancing to help stop virus spread, and give restaurant operators the chance to maximize outdoor patio season and generate revenue.
Portable heating devices, including fire fuelled appliances like propane heaters, will be allowed on all outdoor patio types in Toronto, including sidewalks and curb lane cafés. The guidelines for safe use developed by Toronto Fire Services will be available to patio and café operators today, and operators must follow them closely. Locations will be monitored for safe use and enforced by City bylaw officers and Toronto Fire Services staff. Before, there were numerous documents and applications required for heaters on patios to be approved. The new Fire Services’ guidelines streamline that process and the documentation is no longer required at this time.
While I’m thrilled to hear about this announcement, I’d like to see the CafeTO program improve, beautify and evolve- i.e. fewer plastic cones and more flower boxes. Supporting the success of our small businesses while creating fun and animated streetscapes meaningfully contribute to our quality of life.