Expanding your Outdoor Patio in the City of Toronto
With warmer weather and sunnier days approaching, outdoor dining on one of the City’s many patios could again become one of the most popular pandemic activities, subject to Provincial government regulations permitting restaurants the ability to provide outdoor dining. The pandemic forced everyone to adapt to the “new normal” rather quickly and outdoor patios were not an exception. Since the onset of the pandemic, the City has introduced two by-laws as well as an initiative to give more restaurant and food establishments the opportunity to create and expand their outdoor patio spaces during these times. Below is an overview of the temporary use by-laws and the CafeTO program that are making these expansions more feasible.
Minister’s Zoning Order and Temporary Use By-laws
In July 2020, the Province issued Ontario Regulations 345/20 and 358/20 (collectively, the “Regulations”). O. Reg. 345/20 authorized City Council to adopt a by-law that authorized the temporary use of land for a restaurant or bar patio without the need to hold a statutory public meeting and without being appealable to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). O. Reg. 358/20, which was also a Ministerial Zoning Order (“MZO”), expanded zoning permissions for outdoor patios in the City, expiring on November 16, 2020. These permissions were required to achieve the following objectives requested by City Council:
- Permit surface outdoor patios in certain zones which ordinarily permit eating establishments, but not outdoor patios;
- Remove restrictions in the Employment Industrial Zones of Zoning By-law 569-2013, which limit the amount of front yard an outdoor patio may occupy and require a setback from the front lot line;
- Allow an outdoor patio to occupy space that would otherwise be required for parking; and
- Increase the permitted maximum area of surface outdoor patios ancillary to eating establishments, take-out establishments, and recreation uses.
Pursuant to the Regulations, City Council adopted two temporary use by-laws on October 27, 2020 which replaced the expiring MZO. The two temporary use by-laws intended to continue to ease restrictions for patios during the winter months (the “By-laws”). The By-laws allowed an increase to the maximum size of outdoor patios and removed restrictions that prevented locating an outdoor patio in front of buildings. The By-laws are set to expire on May 25, 2021.
The By-laws grant the following permissions:
- Permit surface outdoor patios in Local Commercial Zones (CL) in Zoning by-law 569-2013 and similar zones in the former municipal zoning by-laws which ordinarily permit restaurants but not outdoor patios;
- Remove restrictions in the Employment Industrial Zones of Zoning By-law 569-2013 which limit the amount of front yard an outdoor patio may occupy and require a setback from the front lot line;
- Allow an outdoor patio to occupy the area of non-residential parking spaces; and
- Increase the permitted maximum area of surface outdoor patios to the greater of 50 square metres or 50% of the establishment’s interior floor area.
On March 10, 2021, City Council adopted two new temporary use by-laws which are identical to and replace the By-laws that are expiring on May 25, 2021. The new temporary use by-laws are set to expire on April 14, 2022.
Since its adoption on June 29, 2020, the CafeTO program has made it feasible for numerous restaurants and food establishments across the city to continue their operations throughout the warmer months. CafeTO provides an opportunity for restaurants and bars to expand their outdoor eating spaces into the public right-of-way, mostly on sidewalks and curb lanes.
In 2020, the program was approved to run from July 1, 2020 until April 14, 2021, and was further extended to run until November 10, 2021. The program is proposed to end on April 14, 2022 in conjunction with the By-laws.
To participate in the CafeTO program to install or expand a café, you must register with the City. Following registration, City staff review your proposal for compliance with applicable guidelines, policies and by-laws. Upon receiving a positive confirmation from the City, you may operate new and expanded sidewalk cafes as soon as outdoor dining is permitted under provincial regulations in Toronto. Further information on CaféTO and associated guidelines can be found here. While the first registration window for curb lane cafes closed on March 26, 2021, a second round of registrations opened on March 27, 2021 and will close in May 2021 (exact date to be determined).
While most outdoor café expansions require CafeTO registration, the following two instances do not require registration and can operate as-is:
- Small Sidewalk Frontage Café: single line of seating directly in front of the business not exceeding an area of 0.8 m x 5.5 m; and
- Existing Permanent Café Licences: permanent, licensed sidewalk cafes who held a permit before March 2020 and do not wish to expand on the sidewalk or the curb lane.
Additionally, patios that are located entirely on private property, comply with the applicable City-wide zoning by-laws and do not incorporate any structures that require a building permit do not require permission from the City prior to installation. Guidelines for outdoor patios located on private property can be found here.
For situations where an outdoor patio that complies with City-wide zoning regulations is not feasible on the subject site or where a patio under the CafeTO program is not feasible, City Council requested at its March 10, 2021 meeting, that staff bring forward City-initiated site-specific temporary use by-laws to provide site-specific zoning relief for outdoor patios located on private property.
If you are looking to install or expand a patio on public or private property and have additional questions, do not hesitate to reach out and one of our lawyers will be happy to help you navigate through the process.