Expanded restaurant patios that would allow patrons to properly physical distance themselves could be a part of the city’s reopening plans, Mayor John Tory says.

The province still hasn’t indicated when restaurants and bars will be permitted to reopen but in an interview with CP24 on Wednesday morning Tory said that he has asked staff to provide him with a list of possible locations where patios could be expanded into the street in order to help struggling businesses that will need as much of a boost as possible once they can resume dining service.

Tory’s comments come as Hamilton city council gets set to debate a motion that calls on staff to work with BIAs and restaurant owners to identify locations that could be transformed into “outdoor dining districts.”

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti also told CP24 on Tuesday that he is looking into enacting a temporary bylaw in his community that would eliminate a cap on the number of patio seats a restaurant can have, which is based on their indoor seating capacity.

“I think not only could it provide us with a source of more enjoyment this summer after all we have been through this winter and spring but also I think that it could be a lifeline for some of the restaurants, especially in light of the fact that they will probably be required to have tables further apart inside and outside,” Tory said of expanded patios.

“So I have asked them (staff) to come back to me with some possible locations and I expect we will have some news on that fairly soon.”

It remains unclear what regulations restaurants may have to face once they eventually reopen, though a number of U.S. states have slashed their capacities and made reservations mandatory.

Speaking with CP24, Tory said that the city has allowed restaurants to expand their patios into the street before, most notably as part of the King Street Transit Priority Corridor.

He said that he sees the effort as part of a wider plan to “reimagine the way in which we are using public space” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we can sweep away some of the red tape and get this done as a way of making the city friendly for everybody but also our friends in the restaurant business,” he said.

Restaurants across Ontario have been limited to take-out service only since March 24 under a provincial order.

“Helping our restaurant industry survive and reopen is an important role the city government can play," Tory said.

New tool to help restaurants and food services

The city also announced on Wednesday that it is partnering with Toronto startup Ritual to launch an ordering tool that will provide businesses with an easy way to accept digital orders online and onsite.

Tory said the new service called Ritual One will help minimize the local impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy by supporting restaurants and food services.

“This partnership with Ritual as part of our short-term economic support and recovery plan for Toronto,” Tory said.

He said businesses that will sign up for Ritual One before June 1 will receive the service free for life and will not pay any commission or monthly subscription fees.

“The shift to digital has been growing as we all know in recent years, but COVID-19 has accelerated this transition beyond what we possibly could have imagined,” Tory said.

Businesses can sign up at https://ritual.co/partners.