2023 CafeTO Deputation
Executive Committee Tuesday January 31, 2023 (EX2.4)
Too Much, Too Soon
Good morning your worship, members of the committee and staff. Thank you for the opportunity.
I will begin by noting that we have shared an independent, third-party survey of the 2022 CafeTO program with you. The purpose of said survey is to validate what everyone here knows. The café TO program is one of the successes that came form the challenges that is COVID.
A 203 million dollar economic impact to the city of Toronto attributed to this initiative can’t be under estimated nor can it be surpassed by many if any programs or events. The return on investment is resounding.
Thanks to the vision of the mayor, council, and staff, notably led by Barb Gray, Carlton Grant and Pat Tobin (and the dozens of city staff that processed applications, installed barriers, inspected the program and helped market it). Collectively we were able to provide lifelines to our local businesses and communities during the worst of times thru unprecedented lockdowns and restrictions.
The report before you, rightfully celebrates this creative economic development response and recognizes the need for the continuation of a café culture not only as a recovery tool but an investment in vibrant communities, tourism, and a strong hospitality industry.
We recognize that to date the program was a patchwork of creative applications of local by-laws and investments of dollars and other resources from departmental budgets, general revenues, and grant-transfer payments from other levels of government.
We also recognize that at some point the pay to play principal will become a reality as we move to permanency and a vibrant café culture in Toronto.
To that end, I submit that the report as written is Too Much, Too Soon.
There is no secret in the fact that we have NOT fully recovered from COVID, especially in the hospitality industry. One only need to follow BlogTO to see almost on a daily basis the announcement of yet another “Beloved Restaurant, Café, or Coffee Shop Closing”.
The cost of money has increased steadily over the last while with the Bank of Canada rate jumping yet another quarter point just a few days ago. Cost of labour, product and supplies continues to increase, and the supply chain plays havoc with any predictability.
No wonder margins are slimmer and slimmer leaving most operators in a perilous position.
Adding to these increased operating costs and slimer margins is the fact that any Loans that were provided to the operators thru the pandemic are scheduled DUE at the end of this year, with businesses having to come up with thousands of dollars to make good on said loans in order to befit from the accompanying/associated grants.
Once again, likely nothing that you have not heard before or will hear, but it needs to be said for context.
OUR Submission, is based on the survey results, consulting with member BIAs, Restaurants, Cafes & Coffee Shops along with city staff while FULLY understanding the need to meet a number of legitimate interests.
As CafeTO becomes a permanent program it is in everyone’s best interest that curb lanes be safe, attractive and fully accessible. Therefore, TABIA supports the requirement for operators to install and maintain curb lane cafes that meet those objectives.
To this end, TABIA has been working with several suppliers to provide quality patio options that will enhance the aesthetics, inclusive of risers and railings at a volume costs savings that can be passed on to the operators which can help deal with not only the direct costs associated with risers but also the instal/teardown and storage challenges that are faced by many operators.
The goal being to work collectively to develop an approach to curb lane cafes which make it as easy and affordable as possible for operators.
It is the other pillar of the report that we are seeking accommodation on, with the challenges and costs facing operators noted earlier. We respectfully submit that the proposed costs associated with the application fees and per meter costs be deferred for this year and that staff, TABIA and the industry be instructed to work collectively over the next two quarters to introduce a phased in approach of appropriate fees starting in the 2024 CafeTO application season.
As proposed, the report’s recommendations regarding application fees, and specifically the per square meter charge, will disadvantage smaller, independent operators that have less financial flexibility and resources than the larger operators.
In conclusion, we believe that this is a reasonable approach that will meet the needs and objectives of all involved and advance responsibly Toronto’s Complete Streets initiative and its keystone project CafeTO.
In for a penny, in for a pound.