CaféTO Program Lifeline to More than 500 Local Restaurants in Toronto
DateFebruary 24, 2021
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Toronto, various shutdowns were announced, leaving devastating effects on local businesses. One of the hardest-hit industries was the food and beverage industry, with one third of restaurants in the city forced to shut down in the first half of 2020. By summer, Toronto began reopening certain industries, including outdoor dining for restaurants.
The City of Toronto reached out to IBI Group to provide critical support to restaurants and Business Improvement Areas (BIAs). It was essential to rapidly deploy a strategy to expand local restaurants’ customer capacity upon reopening, in light of social distancing requirements. The City approved the strategy of curb lane roadway closures as a means of providing restaurants with additional patio space to safely serve their customers and expand their service. On July 1, 2020, the first curb lane patio in Toronto opened. In less than one month, IBI Group coordinated over 350 lane closures in over 50 BIAs and supported over 500 restaurants in reopening.
As part of the CaféTO team, IBI Group worked directly with over 50 BIAs, which had consulted with local restaurants to understand their interest in expanding their patio space into the curb lane. A team of IBI placemaking experts and transportation engineers was deployed to visit each BIA to understand contextual challenges, and to determine which restaurants were feasible candidates for a curb lane patio extension. Upon these site visits, preliminary mapping was undertaken to confirm the locations of feasible curb lane closures, which were subsequently approved by the City.
Once the sites and locations were determined, IBI Group transportation engineers created a set of traffic control plans to safely divert traffic around the “boxes”, which would serve as extensions of the cafés and restaurants onto the curb lanes. The shape of each “box” was determined by the structure and existing uses of the street, including its distance from intersections and traffic lights, hydrants, garbage pickups, laneway entrances, public transit stops and laneways, and the narrowness of the street. By the end of summer 2020, the CaféTO program resulted in more than 9,000 metres of new patio space across Toronto.
On February 5, 2021, Toronto City Council approved a report to authorize a reprisal of the CaféTO program from mid-April 2021 to mid-April 2022, and retained IBI Group for the 2021 program.
To learn more about the City of Toronto’s CaféTO program, listen to an interview with Global Director, Placemaking + International, Trevor McIntyre, on CBC Metro Morning here, or read more from TVO here.