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Outdoor Dining Will Return to Boston on April 1

The city is reinstating the program that made it easier for restaurants to create outdoor dining spaces last year

Several tables of customers sit outside at a restaurant. Servers are wearing masks and gloves. Pale green umbrellas, closed, stand among the tables. Greg Patton/Shutterstock

Boston is yet again preparing for outdoor dining season. Mayor Marty Walsh said that the city is reintroducing the program that made it easy for restaurants to create outdoor dining spaces last year.

“We do have some good news as spring approaches,” said Walsh in a press conference. “Outdoor dining was a bright spot last summer and fall here in the city of Boston. We worked together to create safe and accessible conditions on both public health and private spaces. The program brought much needed viability to our streets and small businesses ... We are bringing it back for 2021 starting on April 1, or as soon as the weather permits.”

Walsh said the city will waive fees for applications, and will perform targeted outreach to reach business owners in underrepresented communities. Boston will also restrict parking in certain neighborhoods, and close down select streets to make space for outdoor dining. Walsh also said that the Boston Disabilities Commission will play an important role in making sure outdoor dining spaces are accessible to everyone.

Last year, the Boston Licensing Board unanimously approved an emergency measure that allowed any restaurant in the city to easily add outdoor seating to its premises.

Under normal circumstances, restaurant owners are required to go through a lengthy approval process, which includes a public hearing as well as meetings with various neighborhood groups, whenever they want to add outdoor seating setups to their business, or make any other seating modification. The licensing board’s action last year streamlined that process, and was wildly popular among operators and diners alike.

During the press conference, Walsh also issued guidance to the city’s bars and restaurants regarding Saint Patrick’s Day.

“There should be no alcohol without food service ... and we won’t allow lines outside restaurants,” Walsh said. “Hopefully a year from now on Saint Patrick’s Day there will be no rules or regulations in place and we’ll all be able to have the fun we want to have.”

And while Boston is opening its restaurants and bars up without capacity caps (in line with the state’s reopening plan), musical performances will not be permitted in restaurants and bars until March 22.

The Boston Licensing Board Is Making It Easier for Restaurants to Create Outdoor Dining Spaces [EBOS]
Boston Initiative Seeks to Improve Accessibility at Restaurants [BG]
Boston Restaurants Can Get Emergency Approval to Add Outdoor Seating Once They’re Allowed to Re-Open for Diners [UH]