Residents and local businesses are expressing frustration following the cancellation of the Taste of the Danforth over what the business improvement area called “logistical issues.”
The organizers of the annual festival, the Danforth BIA — one of Toronto’s most recognized — announced Wednesday that this year’s event had been cancelled, citing streetscape challenges and adapting to CaféTO patio installations and bike lanes.
It had been cancelled for the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was set to return in 2022.
Other street festivals, like Do West Fest along Dundas West and Taste of Little Italy, have already gone ahead this summer. Many saw Taste of the Danforth as an opportunity to bring the community together to celebrate and support local businesses.
Chris Christodoulou, owner of Soula’s on the Danforth, has been participating in the Taste of the Danforth since he first opened his restaurant in 1979.
“It’s a tradition. It’s a way to refresh the memory of the city of Greektown. We’re still here,” said Christodoulou, who admitted that it would have been an enormous help to businesses after losses over the last two years.
“There were a lot of expectations that [businesses] could recapture some of their losses from the pandemic. Obviously, another blow in the face.”
“It’s sad to lose this as an event when every other event in the city is happening,” Christodoulou said.
The owners of a new gelato restaurant, which opened a week ago, had hoped to use the festival as an opportunity to introduce themselves to people across the city.
“The Taste of the Danforth would be nice so that people could try some of our stuff. But now they cancelled it. That’s why we opened up in this area,” said Corrado Novello, owner of Trinacriatast.
The Danforth BIA declined to comment on the cancellation, but Mary Fragedakis, the executive director of BIA and a former city councillor, previously said that the CaféTO program and its many bike lanes were creating issues for the festival.
A spokesperson for the GreekTown on the Danforth BIA said the organization’s members had been communicating with the city for five months regarding “logistical issues” surrounding the event.
CityNews reached out to the area councillor, Paula Fletcher, but was told she was unavailable for an interview.
“The permanent installation of CaféTO and the bike lane infrastructure has created challenges to staging the festival as we have in previous years,” they said.
Christodoulou said that CaféTO allows them to set up a patio outdoors, which he admits has genuinely been a blessing for the restaurant.
“It’s been very good, the extra seating, people love to see here so it has been really beneficial.”
He questions how other food festivals have accommodated the lesser amount of space and why Danforth could not come up with a solution.
“It’s too bad that they cancelled it. I know they were talking about it, but I think it’s a shame that it had to happen,” said one neighbourhood resident CityNews spoke with.
“It’s been such a hard time for the main street people, so to have to give up another beautiful weekend. It is hard,” added another.
Mayor John Tory questioned why it couldn’t have gone ahead with a few adjustments.
“No question there had to be some adjustments, being as to how that particular event took place because the street has changed quite significantly during the pandemic,” said Tory.
“There was never any reason why you couldn’t do a Taste of the Danforth, perhaps in a slightly different kind with that new infrastructure in place, but the fact is that we didn’t get that planning done in time.”
The BIA says there will be localized events incorporating food and music this year, and they plan to reimagine the festival for 2023.