Featured Food & Drink Government

Colder Weather Poses Threat to Restaurants Dependent on Outdoor Dining

During the City Council meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Councilor Kenzie Bok (District 8) offered a proposal targeted at assisting the restaurant industry by promoting pedestrian traffic through various City-sponsored markets.

With the threat of colder weather approaching, many restaurants who have come to depend on the City’s outdoor dining program are in danger of seeing a significant loss of revenue.

Further closures of restaurants could negatively impact the vibrancy of Boston’s neighborhoods, running the risk that independent restaurant owners will be replaced by large chains who have better capital reserves.

According to the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, approximately 20% of the Commonwealth’s restaurants have been forced to close their door. So far, more than thirty of those restaurants were located in the City of Boston.

To help restaurants potentially weather the storm, Councilor Bok suggested a comprehensive plan to promote a robust dining season for local restaurants throughout the winter.

Mayor Marty Walsh recently extended the free outdoor seating program throughout the City to December 1st. The extension is crucial for those who have found the al fresco dining as their lifeline in the midst of the pandemic. However, as fall approaches, restaurant owners are faced with new obstacles.

In order to make outdoor dining viable, restaurants already struggling financially must invest in necessary equipment such as outdoor heaters, blankets, and enclosed tents.

“They’re very worried about the winter,” stated Councilor Bok about restaurants in her district. “And they’re also thinking about what investments it might make sense for them to make in order to make that lifeline work for the year ahead.”

Councilor Bok’s key suggestions included City-sponsored outdoor events such as “Christmas markets”, converting selective streets to pedestrian-only, deploying proactive marketing, and planning for the 2021 summer season with the return of pedestrian events such as Open Newbury.