Toronto restaurateurs fight new patio proposal

Restaurant owners hope city staff will reconsider proposed patio fee hike


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Dan Ferracuti, owner of Safari Bar & Grill, is critical of the fee hike

Since a dramatic patio fee increase for businesses across Toronto was proposed by City of Toronto Municipal Licensing & Standards (ML&S) department in late January, restaurant owners have been nervously anticipating the city’s revised report due this spring. 

On April 11, the new proposal will be made public from ML&S to discuss updated recommendations on the fee increase. Until then, neighbourhood patio owners are considering how they may have to compromise their business to stay in the game. 

On Avenue Road, north of Lawrence Avenue West, the neighbourhood comes alive in the summer, and the action is alfresco. Dan Ferracuti, the owner of Drums N Flats and Safari Bar & Grill, runs two of the biggest patios in the area. His businesses rely heavily on patio season to make up for a decline in traffic during the winter. 

Pablo Velasquez, who owns the Pheasant and three other Firkin pubs in the city, said he too benefits greatly from his patios. According to both business owners, a patio fee hike is another rising cost in an industry of rising costs. 

“The initial proposal was, quite frankly, preposterous, just because of the size of the increase. Mainly, you worry about being able to pay it and whether it would be worth it,” said Ferracuti.  

For independent businesses, the proposed patio fee increases — from $39.34 to $289.33 per square metre for businesses with alcohol sales in Midtown — could prove to be insurmountable. 

At the public consultation in January at city hall, Hamish Goodwin, senior policy and research officer at the ML&S, said, “The question is, how do we balance our requirement to determine a fee that is reflective of the sidewalk of a public asset with the value that the sidewalks and cafés bring to the city?”

After a strong public backlash and admonishment from Mayor Tory, ML&S has pledged to factor community feedback into their final recommendation. “We have heard from business improvement areas that they’re disappointed in what we’re proposing,” said Carleton Grant, director of policy and strategic support at ML&S. 

As for business owners, it’s their livelihood on the line. 

“It’s going to put a lot of people out of business, quite frankly,” said Ferracuti. 

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Jessica Wei is an associate editor for Post City. She has lived and worked as a journalist in Montreal, Hong Kong and, now, Toronto. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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