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Boston Licensing Board Reprimands North End Restaurants for Noncompliance With COVID-19 Outdoor Dining Rules

The Licensing Board has called an emergency mandatory hearing and will revoke temporary outdoor dining extensions for restaurants that don’t attend

A wide shot, outdoors, of one of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods, showing the architecture and empty streets
A view of Boston’s North End in 2020
Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock

The Boston Licensing Board is holding a virtual, mandatory emergency hearing on Wednesday, June 24, with the owners of every restaurant and bar in Boston’s North End neighborhood to address a number of complaints it and the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) have received in the weeks since outdoor dining was permitted to resume. (Find the Zoom link to the hearing here; it will take place at 2 p.m. on June 24.)

The outdoor dining experiment isn’t going exactly to plan, at least not in the North End, according to a hearing notice posted to the Licensing Board’s website. People aren’t social distancing, according to the notice; restaurants aren’t adhering to the terms and conditions of temporary patio extensions, advancing into spaces they are not authorized to use (as part of its pandemic relief efforts, the city expedited the process for bars and restaurants to create outdoor dining spaces — the North End received 65 such extensions, with five pending approval); people are bringing their pets to hang out on patios; and people are smoking tobacco on patios.

Any North End bar or restaurant not in attendance could have its temporary outdoor extension revoked and could be subject to further discipline from the Licensing Board and the ISD.

The Boston Globe pointed out that Boston’s 311 service has received a number of complaints in line with the issues laid out in the Licensing Board’s hearing announcement.

One 311 complaint states, “I’m super concerned about the North End. These tables are not six feet apart. Masks are not consistently being worn. Is there no enforcement?” Another was concerned about noise: “This is absurd! People live here and have to work for a living. They don’t have anyone at their restaurant! Where is the noise enforcement and the accountability for these restaurants?”

Ana Vivas, the deputy press secretary for Mayor Marty Walsh, told Eater via email that the City “takes seriously the regulations in place which were created with public health at the forefront, as we are still in the midst of a worldwide health pandemic. As a reminder for licensees, public health and safety is of the utmost importance to the Board and these outdoor extensions are a privilege and can be revoked at any time at the Board’s discretion.”

The Licensing Board will advance the same warning on Wednesday. Whether North End restaurants — and diners — will comply remains to be seen. Meanwhile, indoor dining is now underway as well.

Boston Licensing Board to Hold Emergency Hearing for North End Restaurants to Address Numerous Complaints [BRT]
Massachusetts Restaurants Can Officially Reopen for Outdoor Dining on Monday, June 8 [EBOS]
Boston Licensing Board to Hold ‘Emergency Hearing’ with North End Restaurants About Outdoor Dining Issues [BG]