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Toronto’s CafeTO program is ‘back on track’ for 2024, says Chow



Toronto’s CaféTO program is “back on track” for 2024, says Mayor Olivia Chow.

Standing outside a pub in east Toronto’s Riverside area on Tuesday afternoon, Chow shared details about this year’s program, which she said will be “easier, faster, more streamlined, and as smooth as possible.”

Late last year, the newly-elected mayor along with Councillors Paula Fletcher and Shelley Carroll held a news conference at a coffee shop on The Danforth which they noted that the 2023 summertime season it didn’t run as smoothly as they’d hoped and vowed to do better this year.

“At that time, we noticed that the CaféTO program was a bit of mess. It took a long time to get in, to get the installations in and there were a lot of complaints, lots of frustrated business owners,” Chow said.

Vowing at that time to “fix the problem” and “clean up the mess,” Chow said that they are keeping their word this year thanks to the help of city workers and the CaféTO team.

She noted that so far, more than 290 curb lane café permits have been issued for the 2024 season, including 81 for new participants in the program. Those patios will be open until October 15.

Chow also said that crews have already begun installing traffic safety equipment, including painted concrete barriers, ahead of the May 1 start date. The prep work, she said, will continue across the rest of the city until June 1.

“CaféTO patios make our neighbourhoods a more vibrant place for residents and they give small businesses an opportunity to scale up their operations, welcome more guests, and, of course, hire more staff,” said Chow, adding data from the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Area found that in 2022 CaféTO patios provided a $200 million boost to the local economy.

Fletcher, a member of the Economic and Community Development Committee, agreed.

“Improvements to the CaféTO program have made it more seamless for the many local restaurants, bars and cafés that rely on these patios as a critical source of revenue,” she said in a release.

“Thank you to Mayor Chow, City staff, business improvement areas (BIAs) and most importantly, participating establishments, for driving improvements to this signature program that helps keeps our main streets vibrant and supports our local businesses.”

This year, the City of Toronto also launched a new CaféTO Dining District Grant to help non-profit organizations and BIAs “amplify neighbourhood-level outdoor dining activities, particularly in areas with a low concentration of curb lane cafés.” Applications are open until May 10.

Launched in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 indoor dining restrictions, Toronto’s CaféTO program became a permanent, city-led initiative in 2023 with more than 500 sidewalk cafes in place year round and 650 others on private property.

The outcomes of this year’s program will inform the roll out of further enhancements next season, the city said in a news release.  

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