Europe on King Street: How To Escape Toronto, While In The Heart Of It

(All photos courtesy of Christian Stokes)

King Street has changed. And it has changed Toronto.

Take Café Artois, for example. An invite for its launch told of “A King Street takeover that will transform nearly a full city block into a picturesque European streetscape for people to savour this summer.”

This, inspired by premium beer brand Stella Artois’ European roots to bring some joie de vivre to Toronto, all while bringing in pedestrian traffic into the King Street West area.

The premise is to get Torontonians to slow down and enjoy the summer, while being present in the moment.

To encourage people to put their phones down and enjoy conversation, food, drinks and entertainment in a newly inspired setting.

The goal is to escape to Europe without leaving what is considered to be the heartbeat of the city, all summer long.

READ: What Toronto Can Learn About Civic Excellence From Rome

I was intrigued by this venture and by this lofty goal — mostly because the patios that Café Artois are taking over, including CIBO Wine Bar (522 King Street West), Fynn’s of Temple Bar (489 King Street West), Spice Route (499 King Street West), and Bier Markt (600 King Street West), are all already popular hot spots and city staples.

Each place is filled to capacity on any given sunny day of summers’ past.

Why now? And why these restaurants in particular?

I mean each of these venues has a very different and unique clientele, and very different branding — despite being on the same strip.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

It turns out Toronto has an ongoing commitment to bring people to King Street because of the King Street Pilot.

With vehicles no longer allowed on the road by these spots, the city wants to ensure they still receive foot traffic.

READ: King Street Pilot Success Clears Track For College Street Pilot Project

To do just that, the City of Toronto allowed restaurants to apply for extended space on their patios.

Once the extended space was approved, Stella Artois supported the process of developing the space itself and transferring these go-to patios into spaces different than what they were before.

Thanks to Café Artois, pedestrians are encouraged to stop and enjoy their surroundings, as well as the time they have with the people around them. This is very much inspired by the European way of life, the same lifestyle promoted and promised to me in the launch invite.

So what are they doing to bring the idea and ideals of Europe to this spots?

Artois says, “It’s all about being distraction free. Consumers are encouraged to put their phones down and instead bask in the moment.”

Throughout this summer, there will be ongoing scheduled entertainment including live music, games and chalice engraving, as well as other activities.

I’m down with the concept.

It’s great how the city is trying to help local businesses that may otherwise get overlooked with the lack of cars passing through as result of the King Street Pilot.

Live entertainment, music, and sprucing up already popular spaces does bring in foot traffic. We’ve already seen this during other popular summer festivals such as Taste of the Danforth, Taste of Little Italy, and Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market.

Let’s just hope the city keeps this up, especially on a strip that, albeit popular, needs to work on going above and beyond these days, which is something the restaurants and bars didn’t have to worry about before.

READ: Top Transit Project of 2017 — King Street Pilot

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