Toronto patios are going to look a little different this winter. Dining in the city has been a source of joy for many people over the summer, but with winter arriving, the future of Toronto’s outdoor patios is a little less clear than it was back in the summer.
Business owners in the 6ix are coming up with clever ways to keep people warm and cozy as the snow starts falling.
The only question is whether or not the city will have to shut them down if bars and restaurants can't ensure diners are safe and healthy during our first COVID-19 winter.
What are the rules for patios in Toronto?
There are plenty of rules venues have to follow in order to keep their patios open this winter.
Firstly, they cannot be entirely enclosed.
“Two full sides of an outdoor dining area must be open to the outdoors and not be substantially blocked in any way,” says the City in their outdoor dining guidelines.
Also, tables must be at least two metres apart for those dining outside. There can’t be more than six people in one spot, either, and there has to be enough space for them to safely move around in between the tables.
With winter in mind, patios are allowed to use outdoor heaters (as long as they’re safely installed on a solid, fireproof surface). Curbside installations were incredibly popular over the summer, with hundreds of them springing up in neighbourhoods around the city. However, they will have to be dismantled soon.
According to the CaféTO rules, restaurants can no longer have their patio spaces in the curb lane of the road. Instead, the City of Toronto confirmed that these lanes must be free in order for snow and ice to be cleared off the roads.
What will outdoor patios look like this winter?
Toronto business owners are a crafty bunch, and their solutions to winter dining are just as creative as their food!
Yorkville’s The Pilot has heaters on its rooftop patio, which keep diners as warm as any fleece-lined pilot jacket could.
Bringing their own sci-fi theme, C’est What in Old Town gives their guests a single-use space blanket to keep them warm in their heated outdoor space.
Against the Grain tried to debut an eye-catching waterfront dome at their restaurant, but they had to delay the opening until November 14 in order to make sure they were compliant with City regulations.
“This entire concept was developed so that our neighbours have something fun and unique to enjoy during these times,” Cam Parra, Director of Marketing and spokesperson for Against the Grain, told Narcity over email. “The health and safety of our guests and staff have always been our priority—that will never change.”
Will restaurant patios be able to stay open all winter?
While we may not know exactly what that will look like, Mayor John Tory has publicly called for a “more liberal” reading of the rulebook and recently told reporters at a press conference that outdoor bubbles represent the kind of “ingenuity” that he wants restaurants to demonstrate.
The City is planning on allowing people to head back inside restaurants on November 14, when the city finishes its modified stage 2 plan, which started back in October.
But until then, you might have to find a dome, grab a blanket or eat that burger you’re craving with your gloves on!