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'We didn't even apply': City builds CafeTO patio for retailer, not restaurant

Outside the baby gear boutique August Kinn in Toronto's east end, a wooden patio boasts a cozy cabana in the curb lane.

The summery set-up offers the shop's customers a beachy break, but the owners don't love it—they never asked for the city to set it up in the first place.

"There were pylons out for like three weeks, taking up the parking, and then all of a sudden one day they were building this beautiful patio," co-owner Julie Watt told CTV News Toronto Thursday.

The CafeTO installation lines a section of Danforth Avenue near Coxwell Avenue that features several retailers. Watt and co-owner Katie Smith say as much as they understand the value of the patios for restaurants, they'd prefer to keep the on-street parking.

"We have lots of customers with little ones, or expectant, and having a close place to park to unload their baby or not far to walk is really important to us," Smith said.

When the pair didn't hear back from the city on why the patio had been built at their doorstep, they decided to make the most of it — furnishing it with hammock-weave chairs and potted plants. But they say it's a sign that the CafeTO plan, which allows restaurants to apply for curb-lane dining, needs some finesse.

Setting up an umbrella at August Kinn's CafeTO patio. (CTV News Toronto)

"I think there's still a lot of work to do on this program," Councillor Brad Bradford agreed. "The city has to do a better job of executing. Parking is at a premium on places like the Danforth, and again the patio rolling out end of July—that's way too late to begin with."

The City told CTV News Toronto the patio in front of August Kinn was installed in partnership with the local business improvement area because there wasn't enough space for on-street parking to be safely maintained with permitted CafeTO patios on either side.

"Instead of empty space, the parklet offers space for the community to enjoy," the statement reads.

"There were bumps along the way initially this year," Councillor Chris Moise said of the CafeTO rollout. "We heard from many stakeholders about that. I'm hoping city staff have been listening diligently so next year we can do a better job of it."

Watt and Smith say that now that a CafeTO set-up has been built for them, they'll make the best of their parking-turned-patio.

"We kind of laughed a bit to say, 'We didn't even apply!'" Smith said. "We would prefer parking, but if this is what we're going to get, we're going to set something up that looks nice." Top Stories

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