The owners of a pair of midtown restaurants say they are confused and frustrated with the city’s new CafeTO program after they were asked by city bylaw officers to tear down their new outdoor patio.
The owners of Hazel’s Diner and neighbouring Wild Chicory on Mt. Pleasant Road say their patio proposal was accepted for the Cafe TO program on June 24. The temporary program allows restaurants to use the sidewalk and curb lanes for outdoor dining beginning on July 1.
The restaurant began construction this weekend after the city council officially passed bylaw changes last week.
But on Monday the two restauranteurs said they received a violation notice stating the structure has to come down immediately, as they had yet to receive official authorization from the city to take over the curb lane.
Chris Doyle, a partner in the Wild Chicory restaurant said the whole thing has left him feeling very frustrated with the city.
“It’s frustrating we spent all weekend a lot of money time building this…and right when we’re ready to go, they say we have to take it down,” says Doyle. “Not only will it cost money to destroy and put back together [but] it’s days and days of us not being open…were hanging by a thread and can’t seem to get any help.”
“We did everything we can, we followed all the rules…the city is just lagging behind, making it near impossible to make a living,” he added.
Doyle’s business partner, Tony Xavier, says being forced to take down the patio feels like he’s “going back to square one.”
“I own three restaurants. Just to the city alone in finances, we pay alone is $100,000 in utilities. The only thing they have done is deferred those payments,” he said. “I put a lot of work into this [and] to be honest, the money that I collected from CERB [Canadian Emergency Response Benefit) funded building this deck. It’s just another thorn in the side…we can’t seem to progress no matter how [hard] we try.”
In a statement, a city spokesperson said while this location has been verified, it has not yet been approved for safety reasons.
“For example, the traffic lane has not yet been closed using appropriate signage and equipment, the speed limit must be reduced and a traffic engineer must report on other safety and accessibility conditions,” the city said. “It is expected that a curb lane closure will be approved and installed at this location in the next week or so. It should also be noted that building more permanent structures in the curb lane is not permitted as part of the CafeTO program.”
A representative for the Mount Pleasant Village Business Improvement Area (BIA) said they’re working with the city to help businesses get their patios up and running, but admits the city can only go so fast.
“It’s my experience that the city has been working at this quite aggressively, but understandably, they can only manage so much volume so things are going in some sort of order,” says Keven Menager, community manager with the BIA. “I know that some BIAs are set up, some aren’t, and we’re somewhere in between. I’ve been working with city staff to ensure there are no bottlenecks in the process, and we’re nearing the green light for lane closures. ”