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Toronto city council votes to extend outdoor patios through the winter

Last Updated Oct 28, 2020 at 5:29 am EST

Winter patios in Toronto are one step closer to becoming a reality.

City council approved the extension of sidewalk patios through the winter months on Tuesday.

The extended CafeTO program allows restaurants to occupy sidewalk space along the curbside. City council is also extending a bylaw through 2021 that will increase the size limit of outdoor patios. They are also removing restrictions that would otherwise prevent patios in the front of buildings.

While city council has given the thumbs up, there are still some questions that need to be answered before they can be officially rolled out.

“Provincial orders currently prohibit indoor dining in Toronto and restaurants need flexibility to find expanded outdoor dining spaces that are safe and meet important accessibility requirement,” the City said in a release.

Mayor John Tory said he would like the city to get out of the way and make the rules as simple as possible for any restaurants that want a patio to be able to have one.

“Winter is coming and we need to support restaurants by allowing winter cafes right now. Sidewalk cafes and expanded private patio space are just a few ways we will support restaurants this winter and into the spring. The effects of COVID-19 have been felt throughout the industry, and I will continue to encourage staff to come up with new and creative ways in which we can continue to support local restaurant operators while recognizing that we must maintain important safety and accessibility requirements.”

Concerns were raised in Tuesday’s city council meeting. Some issues surround whether tents will be permitted and where they can be allowed.

The idea of allowing enclosed tents is a real concern for Coun. Shelly Carroll. She said the decisions should be in the hands of health officials and not politicians.

“We really have to look at this very bluntly from a COVID transmission perspective. I’m very sorry that the premier stuck his neck out for a particular design. It’s the medical professionals that have to tell us what’s right even though our heart breaks for every restauranteur that we know.”