Conducting two hearings on Thursday, the City of Boston’s Licensing Board in concert with an interdepartmental team discussed details related to outdoor dining.
Following the Walsh administration’s decision to extend outdoor dining until at least December 1st in an effort to offer continued relief for the restaurant industry in the wake of the COVID-19 publish health emergency, the hearings focused on providing information to owners in addition to collecting feedback.
Public Safety and Compliance
Licensing Board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce and Executive Secretary Lesley Delaney Hawkins indicated an uptick in resident complaints.
Acknowledging that the vast majority of licensees are in compliance, many of the problems echoed those identified at July’s session including the issue of long lines of patrons not wearing face coverings.
Heaters and Tents
The issue of heating for patrons featured heavily in the hearing discussions.
As stated in the Mayor’s announcement, application fees will be waived for businesses that apply for outdoor propane heaters.
BFD (Boston Fire Department) officials stressed that while all businesses will be inspected and evaluated on a case-by-case basis, certain guidelines must be strictly adhered to when it comes to keeping the heaters at a safe distance and away from entrances/points of egress as well as ensuring that fuel storage tanks are properly shielded and stored properly.
Electric heaters are permitted but cords are not allowed to obstruct or run along the public way such as sidewalks.
Restaurant owners raised the question of erecting tents in an effort to provide extra insulation. Officials responded to this request by stating that tents will not be permitted to restaurants located on public property due to “sight line concerns” for emergency vehicles and other drivers attempting to navigate the narrow streets.
Some wondered why tents are otherwise allowed during the feasts, with the response being that the streets are closed off. This in turn led to a counter-proposal for Hanover Street to be closed off during the winter.
John Romano, North End/West End Neighborhood Liasion, commented that the Mayor’s Office and BTD (Boston Transportation Department) has looked into the possibility before and continues to do so, but that public-safety concerns continue to take top priority.
As a reminder, licensees interested in the Temporary Outdoor Dining Program that have not previously applied may do so via the online application process. If businesses need support through this process, please email email@example.com for technical assistance. A list of restaurants with outdoor dining is available on boston.gov.