The Taste of the Danforth and the Beaches International Jazz Festival are among the latest casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic after the City of Toronto extended the cancellation of events with attendance of more than 250 people through July 31, and those with attendance of 25,000 or more through August 31.
This includes festivals, conferences and cultural programs held in facilities managed by City divisions or public locations, such as roads, parks and civic squares.
Aside from the jazz festival and the Taste of the Danforht, the move also affects such summer staples as the Honda Indy, Salsa on St Clair, Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, Toronto Triathlon Festival, Jerkfest, Taste of Manila, and the Toronto Chinatown Festival.
The city says the resumption or cancellation of professional sporting events is not included in this decision.
“It’s become clear that while many aspects of life that have been locked down will be open by the summer, we will still be grappling with COVID-19 and trying to avoid higher risk scenarios that could help trigger a second wave,” said Mayor John Tory.
“I think that the notion that this summer was going to be very different was clear when the CNE announced earlier this week that the Ex would have to be cancelled for 2020.”
Howard Lichtman, a spokesperson for Taste of the Danforth, acknowledged that as the situation surrounding the pandemic continued to be uncertain, the cancellation of the festival was more than likely.
“For the BIA and the restaurateurs and retailers on the street, it’s always about people first,” he told CityNews. “The criteria was always going to be about people’s health and safety.”
Tory said he hopes that some of the events scheduled for August that have now been cancelled can come back at a later date in the fall “if conditions are right” at that time.
Lichtman said the Board of Retail plans to meet next week to determine whether or not to reschedule the event for later in the fall or postpone it until next year.
“I think there’s different alternatives with respect to the festival. There was commentary about the size and how many people could be present, which leaves the door open to alternatives.”
Among the alternatives which could be explored is a scaled down version of the event or holding smaller mini-festivals rather than one big one.
While the financial losses will be in excess of $100-million in economic impact to the city and province, Lichtman says the cancellation coupled with the closures brought on by the pandemic could spell the end for many businesses in the area.
“It’s the small restaurateurs and the retailers on the street,” said Lichtman. “That particular weekend is often a make or break weekend, it’s one of their most busiest weekends of the year. They’ve suffered significantly during COVID-19 and it’s just an additional blow.”
Lichtman added that the true cost of the pandemic is yet to be revealed.
“Greektown is a microcosm of the city. In it’s heart it is restaurants and it has morphed over time into a multicultural mosaic reflective of the city, so you can basically travel the world by walking down the Danforth.
“It’s a tough time for restaurants. Part of the life and flavour of the Danforth is Greektown and all the restaurants. It’s mom and pop, it’s families, it’s multi-generational in some instances. If certain restaurants and retail stores can’t open, it’s obviously a great loss.”
“The big unknown factor is how many restaurateurs and retailers will survive when its over.”
Tory says in order to help the many festivals impacted by the decision, the City will repurpose grant funding that was previously approved by City Council to help defray financial losses, assist organizers in meeting payments to suppliers, artists and small businesses, and help organizers maintain critical operations to survive this year and prepare for their next festival.
Honda Indy Toronto race promoters say they are exploring other dates in 2020 for the annual IndyCar race.
The lone race in Canada on the IndyCar circuit, the Honda Indy Toronto was scheduled for July 10-12 at Exhibition Place.
The race has been an annual event running through the grounds since 1986 and this is only the second time it will not be on the circuit schedule. Back in 2008 it was not held following the reunification of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League.
Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report