Toronto City Council could end talks on Olive Garden open in 2019

CNN Business

Toronto Mayor John Tory plans to strike the city’s Strategic Partnership Commission and introduce a bill that would allow designated commercial development zones, including downtown Toronto’s CaféTO , to remain open throughout 2019 and on to 2020.

As part of the deal, planned City Council debates are expected to stop in June 2020, as the city makes $90 million available to cover CaféTO’s operating costs during that time.

In an interview with CNN Business on Thursday, Tory said the proposal will help encourage development in the city, especially in downtown Toronto, the heart of the city.

“And, in the downtown core, there are important ones for sure and we’re going to keep them open. This is an extraordinary capital-intensive site and, of course, as a property owner, we have to have an ongoing obligation to provide for the operation of that site,” he said.

The deal is similar to one the city signed with Groupon in 2011 when Groupon signed a 30-year lease to operate CaféTO at Exchange Place. The lease ran until 2029 and Groupon agreed to pay $200,000 per year to operate it.

“When we entered into the long-term agreement with Groupon in 2011, we said it was through 2029. They did a great job. We have been very, very pleased with them and their ongoing contribution to the downtown core,” Tory said.

The “real neighborhood coffee shop” would maintain the 50,000 square feet of space — about half of which is about one third the size of New York’s Union Square cafe — and serve similar fare. The space is owned by Caterpillar Canada and it has been frequented by activists, musicians and other local enthusiasts.

Under the deal, Groupon will pay the city $800,000 annually for the first five years and up to $1.5 million during the remainder of the lease. In addition, the company is required to invest between $500,000 and $1 million in renovations and improvements to the site over the lease period.

“Groupon came to us years ago and said it would be good to keep CaféTO operating into the future, so we started thinking about what could we do that would assist that,” Tory said.

Groupon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

City Council is expected to vote on the deal Thursday afternoon and the legislation will go before the Toronto transit commission Thursday evening. It must then pass council and get unanimous approval from the transit commission before being put before the public for a final vote.

It would be the first time Toronto has adopted a development zone, which Bloomberg reported was the first new city ordinance to pass since Trump signed his executive order temporarily banning travel from several Muslim-majority countries.

“The people of this city know how important this is. It’s first and foremost for job creation for restauranteurs and other types of businesses and people who work in that area,” Tory said.

If the legislation passes, CafeTO will remain open in the City of Toronto until at least the end of next year.

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