New costs for CaféTO patios cast doubt on future of outdoor dining program

The City of Toronto has proposed changes to the CaféTO program that will make it a more sustainable and attractive program for restaurants and bars in 2023. The changes include returning to standard permit processes for outdoor dining and updating the outdoor dining bylaw to make the program more supportive and accessible. The City will continue to support the program with financial support and subsidies, and businesses will be required to invest in the program to ensure that café installations are safe and accessible.


The CaféTO program was launched in 2020 to assist bar and restaurant operators during the pandemic by offering safe outdoor dining options in public areas. This program helped to expand the outdoor space for the restaurants and bars to operate.

1,327 establishments across the City have taken advantage of CaféTO in 2022, 1,213 in 2021 and 801 in 2020.

Information about the program at the city Link

Read the CaféTO staff report.

2022 CaféTO Impact Survey Link


Highlights from the Jan 24 Toronto Star Newspaper Article below.

Original article  Tue., Jan. 24, 2023

Outdoor patios were a rare bright spot in Toronto in the depths of the pandemic, but, now, as the city looks to make its popular CaféTO program permanent, it will come with new costs and regulations for restaurants, leading some to wonder if it’s worth the investment.

Shakey’s Bar and Grill on Bloor Street West, was able to almost double his seating space with a curb lane patio.

After three years with no charges, city staff are recommending a one-time application fee of $865 in 2023, an annual fee that would average about $1,500 for a sidewalk space and $3,000 for a curb lane space.

But under the new rules, patios in a curb lane will also have to be built on a platform for accessibility, which the city found could cost on average $14,000 to build. Businesses would be able to get half those costs covered by a federal grant of up to $7,500 this year.

With the changes, the city is expecting close to 400 curb lane cafes (about half the number from previous years) and 500 sidewalk cafes,

The program brought in $203 million in “economic benefits” in 2022, according to the city.

As part of the transition to a permanent program, staff will spend the next two years figuring out how to balance patios with the needs of road users, including Wheel Trans buses, which have sometimes found it difficult to drop off passengers, and other businesses.

“People are going to have to really think seriously if they are going to take part,” she said, but the upside is that there will not be unused or poorly used space. The city took down 100 patio spaces last year that were blocked off but not being used.

Coun. Dianne Saxe (Ward 11, University-Rosedale) predicted that the CaféTO program will “shrink, but not die” as a result of the proposed changes, which she described as fair.

“It’s reasonable if they are occupying public space they should be paying a fee for it,” she said.

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