Global coffee chain looking to open coffee shop, potentially forever

A pastel apartment building standing tall and looking out over a bustling commercial area in an emerging neighborhood on Toronto’s Eastern waterfront will soon become an everyday fixture for residents and visitors. City planners and city councilors are slated to vote on Thursday on making the property the home of CaféTO, a type of restaurant that has gained popularity in other cities including Montreal, Denver and Tacoma.

The owners of the street-level restaurant — which has a cook area and rooftop garden — originally sought approval for a permanent restaurant location in late 2015, when they submitted plans for a five-story residential building, similar to the one planned at the site today. But the plan, which would have included 5.3 million square feet of residential space, never materialized. Instead, at least one developer went after the restaurant space, located in the “Gateway Lofts” at 1075 King St. E., that is currently occupied by the tea bar Darling Tea + Sake. Earlier this year, the owners rejected the offer from the developer who was prepared to pay them $3.5 million per year in rent, saying they were unwilling to do business in an industrial area.

When the owners of CaféTO announced that the restaurant would close in January, and instead try to fill the space with a new development (which would have been a complete renovation of the space), the local community began rallying around the restaurant and its owners, offering encouragement and support.

In April, the café’s owners, Lena Rathbun and Flora Harel, secured a new two-year lease with the same terms and conditions, without the requirement that the property be used for residential development.

The owners then brought the proposed restaurant to the attention of the Toronto city planning department, where it was placed on the committee for “random” events that receive planning approval. Last week, the proposal was moved to a committee of all 45 city councillors, who would vote on Thursday on whether or not to approve the permanent café for the location at the Gateway Lofts.

If the downtown Toronto restaurant does indeed become permanent, the owners would not be the first. A similar project, Café ORX, opened in 2015 in Windsor, Ontario.

Read the full story at The Toronto Star.


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