TORONTO -- Ontario has announced new measures that will make it easier for licensed bars and restaurants to open or expand patios when they are given the green light to reopen.

Attorney General Doug Downey said the province has amended the Liquor Licence Act in an effort to "cut red tape" to allow all licensed establishments to add a patio or extend an existing one to accommodate social distancing.

"Normally what you'd have to do is apply up to four times a year and this would go on for 14 days at a time. (There would be) increased rules around barriers, that kind of stuff. This simplifies it," Downey said.

"This makes it so that it is as accessible and as cheap as possible for people who want to serve their patrons outside."

The province says any licensed establishment that wishes to extend or open a patio will be permitted to do so provided that a number of conditions are met, including that the municipality does not object to the extension, the licensee is able to "demonstrate sufficient control' of the premises, and there is no condition on the liquor sales licence prohibiting a patio.

"We know the hospitality industry has been struggling through COVID-19 and we want to do everything possible to support them and make sure it is done in a safe way," Downey said.

"This is one more tool... we want to make sure we get rid of as much red tape and as much cost as possible to allow people to serve their patrons."

It is not yet clear when restaurants and bars will be permitted to offer dine-in service. Establishments in Ontario have been permitted to offer takeout and delivery since the start of the pandemic.

Later today, Premier Doug Ford will be announcing more details about the province's plan to advance to the second stage of reopening Ontario.

"This isn't tied to the opening per se," Downey said.

"The opening will happen under the advisement of the chief medical officer of health and the health table. That is something the premier will talk about at the appropriate time. But I just want to have the tools in place so people can get ready."

Last week, the City of Toronto announced details of its CafeTO program, which will give businesses the opportunity to use public space for new patios and the expansion of existing patios when they are allowed to reopen.

The city has also provided some guidelines about what people can expect when they return to bars and restaurants.