The war on fun takes aim at a new target: city patios

The war on fun takes aim at a new target: city patios

Future Bakery’s popular Annex patio (Image: Andrzej Wrotek) 

City council was busy junking 2010’s harmonization of city zoning bylaws yesterday—but as the Toronto Star points out, that isn’t necessarily the best idea. Although the project was roundly criticized by the development industry and David Miller’s opponents for a multitude of technical errors—its supporters, on the other hand, greeted it as an unglamorous but important achievement—there was good reason behind it. Take, for example, the existing bylaws pertaining to the city’s outside patios and rooftop decks: basically, they’re kind of ridiculous.

From the city’s paper of record:

As of this month, restaurants in Greektown on the Danforth can operate side patios on residential streets until midnight on Friday and Saturday, which is an hour later than the current city-wide bylaw allows.

On College St. W., outdoor seating at the über-popular Café Diplomatico at Clinton St. is open until 2 a.m.

But Future Bakery on Bloor St. has to close its patio at 11 p.m. on weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekends, while a few doors down, Paupers operates until 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.

So, Toronto’s harmonized bylaw didn’t really harmonize much, did it? Basically, how late patrons of local watering holes can enjoy the seasonal warmth depends on what neighbourhood their favourite spot happens to be in. The blanket law forces patios to close at 11 p.m., and any bar that wants to keep its patio open later than that needs to ask the local councillor for permission. Toronto’s love of restrictive rules that force people to ask to do something in advance of actually doing it (see Salt Wine Bar, or even the bizarre ban on street hockey) is one heck of a way way to run a city.

But it’s possible that some councillors are tiring of it. The Star notes that Joe Mihevc is something of a radical on the issue: he’s volunteering his ward for an experiment in the dangerous, terrifying idea of extending patio hours until midnight. Even in a Toronto run by allegedly small-government conservatives, the idea that the city should simply set broad permissive rules and punish abuses seems a touch beyond the pale.

No patio culture in your ‘hood? Thank your local councillor [Toronto Star]