TORONTO -- Bars and restaurants may still be limited to take out and delivery only in Toronto but they could be just a few months away from packed patios and a much needed revenue boost.

The first registration window for Toronto’s CafeTO program opened this morning, providing a glimmer of hope for a sector of the economy that has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic.

Last year nearly 900 restaurants set up temporary patios on sidewalk and in curb lanes as part of the initiative but the city has said that it is hopeful that even more businesses will take part this year.

“The whole objective in opening up the application process today before the end of February whereas last year we did it two months later is to simplify the process and get these patios installed by May so they are there in time for the May 24 weekend,” Mayor John Tory told CP24 on Friday morning. “It will give them (bars and restaurants) some extra space, some extra revenue and if they can have it for the May long weekend it gives them a longer season.”

The first CafeTo patios didn’t open until late June last year due to public health restrictions that remained in effect for the entire spring.

The province, however, has already lifted the prohibition on indoor and outdoor dining in most regions and there is increasing hope that the patio season could start a little earlier in Toronto this year.

Tory said that restaurants and bars that apply between now and March 25 will be able to have their patios installed sometime in May. He said that businesses that register during a secondary application window that begins March 26 won’t be able to have their patios installed until June.

“It was well liked by people last year, people loved the experience of sitting on those patios and for the restaurants it was a lifeline in terms of extra revenue that they took in after some very tough times,” he said of the program.

Several changes have been made to this year’s CafeTO program, including a tweak that will allow allow restaurants and bars to build temporary decks and platforms in curb lanes.

The city has also committed to working to ensure that more restaurants in the inner suburbs will be able to take advantage of the program.