CafeTO, re-opening, building Equitable & Inclusive Organizations

June 15, 2020

Speak to a City Business Advisor

The BusinessTO Support Centre provides one-on-one virtual support to help businesses, including not-for-profit and creative/culture organizations, complete applications for Government of Canada COVID-19 funding programs and get general business advice. An advisor will contact you within 24-48 hours to assist.  Speak to a Business Advisor, click here


Restaurants and personal care services advised to prepare for safe reopening. The provincial government has advised restaurants, cafes, and personal services including hair salons, barbers, tattoo parlours, nail salons and aesthetics to begin preparing for their reopeningGuidelines for Reopening your Restaurant and Guidelines for Personal Service Settings are now available. Decisions about when and how businesses can begin operating will be made in accordance with the Government of Ontario's framework to reopen the province.

Building Equitable & Inclusive Organizations

There is no organization that hasn't learned a difficult truth about itself in the last few months. Crisis amplifies pre-existing inequities and harmful organizational practices and creates new ones. The Adaway Group offers a Summer Series of online modules on July 1, July 15, July 28. Spend July building your anti-racist analysis–as an individual, as teams, as leaders.

In developing effective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic governments, non-profit agencies, foundations and community groups should pay particular attention to the unique and distinct histories, experiences, and needs of Black communities. To support community stakeholders in this regard, the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit
has prepared this resource: Anti-Black Racism Analysis Tool Kit. 

Get your store Online!

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of having an online presence to sell goods and services. This tool is amplified that much more with the curbside pick up approach many of you are navigating.

 Leveraging Toronto’s technology community, the City of Toronto and Digital Main Street have brought together a range of partners to build and optimize online stores for Toronto’s independent businesses and artists at no-cost.
Thanks to volunteer developers, marketing and business students, and the support of corporate partners, Toronto’s independent businesses and artists – whether they are along a main street, in an industrial park, or a studio – can access ShopHERE to get their online store built and launched with hands-on support throughout the entire process in just a matter of days.
What do businesses and artists get as part of ShopHERE?

  • Their choice of a template online Shopify store customized with their information, branding, logo, etc.
  • Hands-on assistance setting up and launching their online store.
  • Training and support covering digital marketing, shipping and operating their online store.
  • Access to free tools and various credits (from over 10 partners) to help support the launch of their online stores.

Participant Requirements:
The ShopHERE program is open to any businesses or artist that meets the following requirements:

  • Pays commercial property taxes in the City of Toronto
  • Have fewer than 10 employees, or fewer than 25 if they are a café, restaurant, or bar
  • Not be a corporate chain or franchise
  • OR must be an artist located within the City of Toronto.

To sign up for this exciting program and receive a free online store you can fill out the application form here:
 If you have any questions, reach out to Digital Main Street at

Plexiglass barriers

  1. BESI is an Ontario based company who is producing COVID-19 Plexiglas protective barriers. Visit their website to see samples of their sneeze shields and barriers for custom order. BESI contact is Evelina (647) 272-1323 from 8am until 10pm.
  2. GERAGHTY & ASSOCIATES is a design firm creating Covid2020shields and is an Ontario based company who is producing COVID-19 Plexiglas protective barriers. Visit their website to see samples or call/email: 416.524.3534

Early Stage Entrepreneurs 

Incubator accepting applications for early-stage entrepreneurs looking to solve issues presented by COVID-19. Parkdale Centre for Innovation, an incubator focused on inclusion and equity, is looking for early-stage entrepreneurs passionate about solving problems presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications are now open for entrepreneurship programs centred around the themes of food security, connected communities and digital startups.

CafeTO / Patios

Over the last few weeks TABIA and many BIA’s have had lengthy discussions with Transportation regarding the (CafeTO) extension of new or existing patios into the sidewalk and/or curb lanes for cafes, restaurants and bars within BIA’s. We believe outdoor serving is a critical component in establishments being able to survive the remaining months.
As we continue to learn more about the current patio parameters being adjusted to help accommodate a possible patio rollout in neighbourhoods, we are leading with the recommendations from Transportation - the department overseeing this Patio project, and looking at a ‘block by block’ approach, starting with Queen Street West from Noble to Brock.
Transportation is asking BIA’s to submit the desired plans per block, the Application process for each Restaurant/Café to apply online is not yet open, however we have compiled questions and the June presentation to help you assess this opportunity.

Please confirm ASAP by email indicating if you are interested in:

  1. Sidewalk Frontage Café Patio
  2. Small Frontage Café
  3. Curb Lane Café
  4. exterior back of house Patio (back parking spaces)

It may be wise to start conversation with your insurance provider to ensure that you can have proper coverage by extending your license out the sidewalk. And there will probably be costs involved to individual businesses who choose to exercise extending the patios - however we will advocate to ensure the least amount of cost is passed along to the businesses.

Some Common Questions Answered by Transportation in May 2020:
Q: Will the patio fees be waived for 2020 for this project?
A: Unsure. Transportation Department does not have the authority to waive this. It is being investigated by the City and more details will follow later.

Q: Is it possible to close down the curb lanes of traffic in each direction to extend the patios and space for people to use the sidewalk?
A: We don't know. Transportation will ultimately make that decision, after reviewing our street in more detail. We have suggested it to Transportation and they are aware that this could work very well on Ossington. It could also work that a hybrid combination could work where certain days of the week the street could be reconfigured. Again - at the discretion and approval of Transportation.

Q: How do I get my liquor license extended to the patio outside?
A: We have tried to connect with the AGCO and once we have more details, we will share them. The City will also be in contact with the AGCO to layout a plan.

Q: We have some exterior "back of house" space in the laneway that could potentially be used for additional patio space. Can we convert that?
A: Transportation has indicated that back private space must only be used as per its zoning use. If it extends into "public" space, then it may be doable. It will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Q: Who will pay for the legally required barriers to enclose the licensed patio?
A: Transporation has indicated it will most likely be a "hybrid" approach whereby the City may be able to pay for some type of barriers but businesses should expect to contribute to this cost as well. Details will follow once made available.

Q: How long can we have this additional use of space for patio use?
A: This is uncertain, but we will advocate for middle to end of October (typical patio season)

Q: What happens to parking with curb lane pedestrianization & hospitality use approval?
Toronto Parking Authority and Transportation will be in contact. We will have to educate A: of alternative parking areas and parking lots.

Some Common Questions Answered by Transportation in June 2020:
Our team has been busy preparing to take action on CafeTO. We are still waiting on the province and Medical Officer of Health to weigh in what that could look like. Last week, Barbara spoke to some of the temporary measures being explored for those who already have an existing patio in place. Other cities are allowing takeout on patios that is not an option for Toronto as far as we know. We are looking at all necessary authorities and other pieces that need to be put in place for CafeTO. Essential placement guidelines are being created. The city is working with consultants to provide a design resource for BIAs to assist in creating streetscape plans. Transportation will work closely with other relevant city departments on education to ensure we are ready to move forward. Transportation is also exploring new barricades to use. We understand that the ones currently used for CurbTO are not the most attractive. These new barricades would be more secure and visually pleasing with the knowledge that some BIAs/restaurants will want to put their own spin on it. As stated last week, it is not too soon for BIAs to begin active conversations with their restaurants on this initiative. Barbra encourages BIAs who have not yet already done to start having those conversations. Unfortunately, the program has not been finalized this week, but we are very close. Barbara will have more details to share on our next call.

Q: Do you have a rough timeline around some sort of implementation for CafeTO?
Barbara Gray: Our goal is to be ready by the time the province is ready to re-open. We know this has to be a quick rollout and understand the complexities around meeting social distancing guidelines. Advice from the Medical Officer of Health will be key. The team is working hard and will continue to until we’re ready to launch. That being said, we don’t want BIAs to wait to identify locations and businesses interested in expanded patios. As for patios in behind buildings or on private property, those spaces are governed by a zoning by-law and can be tricky to navigate. We’re working closely with City Planning.

Q: Where can BIAs email proposals for patio cafes?
Barbara Gray: ). At the moment, this is a resource for BIAs to send in questions and requests for answers related to patios. It will be shared in the future with businesses We have also created a dedicated email for the CafeTO program ( We will be launching a web portal shortly. In the meantime, you can flip that information to Jodi Callan 

Q: As part of making patios more accessible and creative, would transportation be willing to help us remove old newspaper box corrals. These have often been incorrectly placed, cost money to remove, and are rusty and broken due to no maintenance.
Barbara Gray: Certainly something that should be dealt with separately but we have no problem working out issues if it makes sense in relation to patios.

Q: None of our restaurants have patios, but there is sufficient space without disrupting or extending into the right of way. Will the city waive fees for those patios as well?
Barbara Gray: We are eager to make all patios work, looking at waiving fees for 2020.

Q: Has there been any forward movement with the AGCO?
Barbara Gray: We recognize that issue and we’ve been raising it to the Mayor’s office as well. We are also trying to engage directly with the AGCO as there could be some issues resulting in a delayed launch of CafeTO. We need a solution on that.

Q1: Update on Existing Licensed Patios Barbara Gray: This question was asked this morning to MLS and Public Health, we have not heard anything from province in terms of existing outdoor patios but tracking closely. We assume when they announce it will be a quick lead time before it takes effect, like most orders.

Q2: 2020 Patio Fees - Mike Major: I’ve spoken with Carleton Grant, and the city is looking at waiving all fees as that’s the recommendation of staff. Still needs council approval for authority. It’s possible that some restaurants may have been mailed their 2020 renewals. If so, that was done in error. If they have already paid those fees, it will be counted towards their 2021 fees.
Q: Will parklette fees be waived as well?
Jodi Callan: Yes, they will be.

Transportation will review applications when they are open, but we are doing our best to advocate. Please ensure you read the attached presentation from June and I look forward to hearing from you at

UPDATE: CafeTO have officially launched their website and registration -
The CafeTO program requires that appropriate provincial orders are changed and public health recommendations enacted. Some components of the program also require consideration by Executive Committee on June 22, 2020 and Toronto City Council on June 29, 2020.
If you have any questions about the registration form or the CafeTO program, please email