'We want our space back:' Toronto restaurant faces backlash for public space patio
Coun. Joe Cressy says the city is considering legal action to have a restaurant patio removed on John Street.
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A small plaza on John Street has become ground zero in the fight for more public space in downtown Toronto.
Mexican restaurant La Carnita has been operating a fenced-in patio in the plaza, located just west of Adelaide Street.
It’s been a popular destination for taco lovers, but there’s a problem: the patio is located on public space.
The property is owned by Pinnacle International, but as part of a deal to build a 43-storey condo on the site, the developer agreed to build and maintain the plaza as a “privately owned publicly-accessible space,” or POPS.
According to city staff, POPS “are designed for access to all people, not customers of a particular business or residents or workers of a particular building.”
Residents say that’s not happening at La Carnita. Upset the plaza had been fenced in, Andrea Frisina and other residents of the Pinnacle condos on Adelaide staged a sit-in, taking over the patio’s tables and chairs.
“We were immediately approached by La Carnita staff and asked if we were ordering a meal,” she said. “We said ‘no,’ and they told us we had to leave.”
Ward 20 councillor Joe Cressy said the city has asked La Carnita to remove the patio, but the restaurant hasn’t complied. He called La Carnita’s actions “shameful” and said that if the patio isn’t taken down soon, the city will take “rigorous legal action.”
Representatives from La Carnita were not available for comment Sunday. However, a sign has appeared outside the restaurant saying “we’re trying to figure things out with the city and the good people of the building. Please use the space and any of the benches out here.”
Jake Tobin Garrett, spokesman for the non-profit Toronto Park People, said the city needs to make it clear to other POPS owners that public space must be kept public.
“It’s so important to have even these little slivers of public space downtown,” he said. “There needs to be a strong response to this because otherwise what kind of message does it send?”
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