HERE TO STAY: CafeTO made permanent Toronto fixture

Pandemic program allowing curbside, sidewalk and parking lane restaurant patios not without its concerns

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Concerns about traffic and parking weighed little in Toronto council’s decision Wednesday to make CafeTO a permanent part of the city.

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The successful outdoor patio program was an emergency measure enacted last summer to help ailing restaurants during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

However, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said council needed to consider how much public space it was willing to give up in the name of CafeTO, observing that cafes largely sat vacant during off-peak hours.

“Restaurants would open their doors for business in the evenings and on weekends, while Monday to Thursday the cafe installations literally sat dormant,” she said.

Councillor Stephen Holyday, who initially counted himself a supporter of CafeTO, spoke of serious concerns over making it permanent — particularly concerning congestion.

Using curb-lane parking for restaurant patios, he said, erects a barrier for those in the suburbs who may opt for easier options for a night out than trying to park downtown.

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“People will simply pass, say ‘no thanks, not worth the fight to get into the city,’” he said, adding congestion is quickly returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Other councillors didn’t share the reservations.

While Michael Thompson conceded there would be impediments and necessary adjustment periods, he said a permanent CafeTO would be a good fit.

“I think we need to celebrate this, and ensure that in terms of balancing interests, that we make the right decision,” he said, explaining that means helping businesses, creating jobs and fostering a sense of community.

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Councillor Shelley Carroll had little sympathy for the complaints of car-bound suburb-dwellers, adding they’re better off staying away.

“We need to reduce the number of trips downtown,” she said. “I drive downtown every day, and over time as this city gets to four million, I’m going to have to change my behaviour.”

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Mayor John Tory, a champion of CafeTO since the beginning, agreed, adding that CafeTO shouldn’t be hamstrung by the demands of “status quo” by motorists wishing to use city streets for driving.

  1. The owners of Stratengers Restaurant and Bar Dharam Vijh and his brother Anil prepare their patio section for reopening on Thursday, June 4, 2020 in Leslieville.

    Council gives nod to 2021 return to CafeTO

  2. Chairs are tucked away on a patio outside a Danforth Ave. restaurant at Logan Ave.

    City wants CafeTO to become permanent

  3. The owners of Stratengers Restaurant and Bar Dharam Vijh and his brother Anil prepare their patio section for reopening on Thursday, June 4, 2020 in Leslieville.

    Plans to make CafeTO permanent heads to council

  4. The owners of Stratengers Restaurant and Bar Dharam Vijh and his brother Anil prepare their patio section for reopening on Thursday, June 4, 2020 in Leslieville.

    ‘Bigger and better’ CafeTO to return in 2021

“We’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Union Station,” he said.

“The Gardiner Expressway wouldn’t be, or other streets, needed as much by people who wouldn’t feel the need to bring their car.”

bpassifiume@postmedia.com
On Twitter:  @bryanpassifiume

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