Retail

Boston Boosts Outdoor Seating For Restaurants

Boston will now allow more outdoor dining in the coronavirus crisis.

Boston’s Hanover Street parking spots, nearly impossible to find, have been eliminated and replaced with seating for more than a dozen restaurants, the city announced on Thursday (June 11).

“This is not a typical community process, but the conversations will continue,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a press conference, referring to the lack of community input over the elimination of parking spaces. “We have to move quickly to help our restaurants in our business districts in the city to survive, be safe and recover.” 

As Massachusetts began its second phase of reopening, allowing outdoor dining, only this week, the city’s Licensing Board has fast-tracked more than 200 permits, including many in the North End for the first time. 

Walsh said the city received 500 applications from restaurants and cafes to add outdoor dining. Restaurant dining was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic on St. Patrick's Day.

To help restaurants recover, Walsh has extended closing time to 10 p.m. on weekdays and until 11 p.m. on weekends.

Restaurateurs must comply with guidelines to keep customers and staff safe. Tables must be six feet apart, with no more than six people to a table. Employees and customers must wear masks. 

Restaurants that already have outdoor seating are allowed to continue, but with additional restrictions in place that ensure COVID-19 precautions such as physical distancing and mask use.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has said the next phase of the reopening will include opening dining rooms. A date for indoor eating has not been determined.

The city reminded residents and visitors to Boston that COVID-19 is still a risk throughout the city: “If you choose to dine outdoors, please continue to take the necessary steps to protect yourself and others. Stay six feet away from others when possible, always wear a face covering and wash your hands often.”

In a virtual discussion this week with PYMNTS, panelists Ingo Money Inc. CEO Drew Edwards, and Planters First Bancorp CEO Dan Speight said in Georgia, where they make their homes, residents’ appetite for dining is back.

Stephen DeSousa, CEO at Broadway Hospitality Group, which represents 14 Massachusetts and Rhode Island eateries, said the first wave of people visiting restaurants now are not worried about coronavirus.

“They’re going to go out no matter what,” DeSousa said.

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