Mayor John Tory has unveiled a new quick start program that will allow for more outdoor dining when restaurants and bars get the go-ahead to re-open.
CafeTo will help restaurants and bars restart from COVID-19 by opening, and in some cases, expanding patio spaces by expediting the current permit and application process for sidewalk cafes and parklets.
The mayor said he knows bars and restaurants are eagerly waiting for the day they can reopen to a much broader service offering besides just take out and curbside pickup.
“These businesses mean a lot of jobs, they mean lively neighbourhoods and vibrant streets and great experiences for both residents and visitors,” Tory said. “They are a key element in our city’s economy and they’ve been hit very hard by the pandemic. They represent hundreds and hundreds, in fact, thousands of jobs.”
An action team encompassing several city divisions has been established to oversee the program so that bars and restaurants can hit the ground running when the approvals are given by the province.
“City staff are getting ready now so that the city can act quickly, with lightning speed, to help restaurants and bars to take advantage of this program as soon as the provincial order is lifted.”
Tory said the program is not confined to just downtown establishments but will include different areas of the city.
He said the city is working with the province and public health to come up with a timeline for when these businesses can reopen their dining areas. Speaking earlier this morning on Breakfast Television, he said he was hoping for some time around Canada Day.
“Still don’t know, I’m guess it is going to be a few weeks yet because we still haven’t seen the improvement in the numbers that we need. We’re certainly all aiming for something that might come along let’s say in the Canada Day neighbourhood but I am just speculating on that. I don’t know, it’s up to the province to make that decision,” the mayor said.
“We’re talking with them every day and we certainly don’t want to see them do it too soon and run the risk of a second wave or some further spread of this virus. So keep our fingers crossed for something a few weeks from now and people will then be able to look forward to expanded patios, not just the good old ones they were used to.”
Ontario health officials are in discussions about the second stage of the province’s economic reopening plan, and Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday he hopes to bring it forward over the next week.
The province began its first stage of reopening May 19 including lifting restrictions on retail stores and surgeries.
Numbers of new cases have gone up and down in the two weeks since Ontario entered Stage 1, but the province has previously said it wants to see a consistent, two-to-four-week decline in new cases before reopening more.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said Ontario will take a “measured, gradual approach to reopening” based on advice of health officials and is looking at whether some health units can enter Stage 2 before others.
Ford said even though Ontario extended its state of emergency Tuesday until June 30, it won’t slow down the reopening process.