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NEWS (MARCH 2017): City proposes steep patio fee hike

March 22nd, 2017 · No Comments

Business owners decry lack of consultation

PHOTO BY MATT JAMES/GLEANER NEWS FILE PHOTO: Business owners said they weren’t consulted on the City of Toronto’s proposal to hike to patio fees. Many businesses on Bloor Street West — such as Future Bakery (above) — open a patio in the warmer months, but they are already expensive to operate and maintain.

By Sanjeev Wignarajah

The City of Toronto’s proposed one thousand per cent increase to patio fees has local bar and restaurant owners — who say they were never consulted about the increase — worried about the future of their businesses.

Most sidewalk patios are on land that is owned by the city, which charges the operators an annual per square foot rent. The city wants to standardize its rates, which are currently all over the map, a holdover from pre-amalgamation.

“They’re thinking they can come and take something that was $1,500 a year and turn it into $15,000 a year”—Andrew Kilgour, owner, Kilgour’s

Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) said city staff, council members, and the Municipal Licensing and Standards committee met January 30 to discuss harmonizing the patio fees.

“There was a number that was pretty quickly rejected by business owners but also by council members like myself and Mayor Tory,” he said, adding that patios bring energy and vibrancy to main streets.

“While there is and should be a rate paid for patio licences, that rate should be fair and it needs to be affordable,” Cressy said. “I expect that city staff will now go back to review what is a more appropriate and fair amount.”

Carmine Raviele and his son are the owners of Il Gatto Nero, a café bar in Little Italy at 720 College St. Raviele said he pays $1,400 per year for patio fees. He pointed out that business will suffer in the winter since patios are only operational for the spring, summer, and fall months.

“Naturally we have think what to do with it, whether to renew it or whatever,” Raviele said. “It’s hard to run a business.”

“It’s insane,” said Andrew Kilgour, who has owned Kilgour’s on Bloor Street since 1995. “I’m all in favour of user fees but they have got to be reasonable. They’re thinking they can come and take something that was $1,500 a year and turn it into $15,000 a year.”

Killian Thomson, general manager of Pauper’s Pub, also on Bloor Street, said that the city will make it very expensive for small businesses.

“Bars on the strip usually pay an exorbitant amount of rent,” Thomson said. “A typical patio fee can range from $1,400 up to $5,000 a year.”

Not only do restaurant owners pay a per-square-foot amount, they also pay for a liquor licence to serve alcohol on the patio. Antonietta Raviele, a board member of the Little Italy BIA, explained that owners pay a lot to maintain their patios, which adds to the cost of doing business.

“If I put out a wooden platform to make my patio even because the city sidewalk is so badly damaged that the tables wobble and people’s glasses fall, it would hurt them. So, I have to protect myself from that liability,” she said. “You want to put a platform in. You can’t put a platform in unless it’s pre-approved by the city and you have to pay extra for that for your yearly patio fee.”

Cressy said that the feedback he has received from restaurant owners is heartfelt.

“I think people appreciated and recognized that it’s a good thing that the consultation happened. There was never a fee that was brought to council for consideration,” he said. “In fact, they went out to the restaurant community and the patio community first.”

But local patio operators have said nobody on city staff consulted them about the increase.

The Mayor wrote in a letter statement that he, city staff, and council members will work together on the updated changes on fees and regulations:

“In my discussions with city staff, I have made it clear that I do not support excessive fees and that this review will need to balance the value of sidewalks as a city asset with many public benefits that patios bring to our communities.”

City council will vote on the proposed changes to the patio fees in the spring.


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