TORONTO -- Amid a pandemic that has changed much in the city, summer in Toronto will have at least one familiar feature this year.

City officials said Wednesday that all licensed food and ice cream trucks will be allowed to operate starting today.

“Today I am happy to announce that after a review of the emergency measures regulations and recent changes, all licensed street food vending, food trucks and ice cream trucks in the City of Toronto are permitted to operate as of today,” Mayor John Tory said at a media briefing.

He noted that the change comes “just in time” for the summer season.

Tory said that all operators must adhere to physical distancing requirements for the public and proper health and safety measures for staff.

“Just like visits to other businesses, residents visiting street food vendors and food or ice cream trucks should maintain a distance of at least two metres or six feet from others while waiting in line,” Tory said.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto medical officer of health, said that social distancing is the primary health concern around the reopening if the trucks.

“With food trucks, because they operate in the outdoors – we also know that the risk of COVID-19 is significantly reduced when you’re in that large outdoor space compared to say, for example, an indoor environment,” de Villa said.

Tory called the move “good news” for the city’s growing mobile food industry.

There are currently 177 non-motorized food carts and 325 motorized refreshment vehicles, including 75 hot dog carts licensed by the city.

Vendors can renew or obtain new licenses by emailing Municipal Licensing & Standards.

Plan in the works for patios

Tory also said that he knows restaurants and bars are “eagerly awaiting” news about when they might be able to reopen in some way for dine-in service and said the city is working with the province to try and make that happen.  

“We are working with the province and public health to figure out both the timeline and under what conditions these businesses can re-open their dining areas safely and we’re continuing to work on a plan to help open up more patio space for restaurants and our bars,” Tory said.  

“We are in active discussions with the province on some of the regulatory aspects of that patio plan and anticipate providing more details to you in the next few days, an initiative that I believe will be of scale and therefore very helpful to businesses which are struggling in the sector.”

Earlier Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford said that a decision on reopening restaurant patios will be made “within the week.”