War on fun: New zoning bylaw prohibits restaurants and bars located south of Bloor from having back patios

War on fun: New zoning bylaw prohibits restaurants and bars located south of Bloor from having back patios

Patio season ended early this year (Image: Matt MacGillvray) 

Think the one-year ban on bars and restaurants on Ossington was strict? This week, a new zoning bylaw quietly went into effect; it forbids any restaurant or bar located south of Bloor from Victoria Park and west to the Humber from opening a backyard patio.

Here’s the official city hall ruling from the staff report on August 5:

Outdoor patios will no longer be permitted in the rear yard, and may be located in a side yard subject to a maximum of 50% of the depth of the building from the front lot line in PA3 and PA4 on/south of Bloor St W and the Danforth in the Former City of Toronto.

With respect to outdoor patios, the recommendations of the Queen Street West Study are being carried forward to all properties located on or south of Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue in CR (commercial/residential) zones within Policy Areas 3 and 4 in the former City of Toronto. Outdoor patios will no longer be permitted in the rear yard, and may only be located in a side yard subject to a maximum length equal to 50% of the depth of the building measured from the front lot line.

The predominant reason behind the bylaw is noise. Many of the buildings in the affected area were built rather close to each other during the Second World War, which means that rear patios would bring more problems than front patios because a restaurant’s rear yard could face someone’s house. Corner establishments can have their patios on the side.

Joe D’Abramo, acting director of the city’s zoning bylaw and environmental planning division, acknowledges that not all restaurants and bars are rowdy and that residents are generally appreciative of commercial activity. The problem is that the provincial government doesn’t separate bars and restaurants when it comes to zoning and licensing. “If the province had a different regulatory regime, then we could distinguish between establishments that are acceptable and not,” he says.

Those establishments that already have patios out back can keep them, and restaurateurs taking over properties that have existing patios are, for the most part, safe as well. “Generally speaking, the rule is that the planning act will protect properties that exist in their current manner. Council can’t make a bylaw that’s retroactive.” As for properties that have the potential for a rear patio, those cases will be dealt with individually.

“I saw a few letters of concerns about the limiting nature of any bylaw. I think they just want more freedom, like any business, and do anything that services their uses, which is expected,” says D’Abramo. “The regulation that’s put in the bylaw by planners is trying to create a balance. We’re not looking to pick on restaurant owners; we’re creating a balance that lets business and residential communities live together.”

When asked if it’s possible to have rear patios close at an earlier hour as an option, D’Abramo says the difficulty is in enforcing that all those patios are cleared out by a certain time.

“Zoning has its limitations and is a tool best used when constructing the ideal use and building that goes along with it. It’s less useful when regulating day-to-day activities, like making people clear out every night,” he says. “It has its limitations, so you have to look at other regulations. Even then, are you going to have an enforcement officer at every restaurant to watch the clock?”