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The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
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February 26, 2024

Mayor Wu announces permanent outdoor dining plan

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, along with the Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion, the Streets cabinet, and the Disabilities Commission, outlined a new permanent outdoor dining plan for restaurants and local businesses around Boston. The new initiative will accelerate the application and annual renewal processes, allowing more business owners to reap the benefits of outdoor dining. Some of the concerns addressed while formulating this new plan included public safety and accessibility. 

“Outdoor dining expanded as a way to keep our businesses open during the pandemic and has turned into a popular opportunity to enjoy our streets and each other’s company,” said Mayor Wu. This new Permanent Outdoor Dining Program is the culmination of the Outdoor Dining Pilot Program, which was established in 2020 to address the major implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses. “We’ve taken what we learned over the last couple years to inform the permanent program, and we’re committed to working with our neighborhoods to make this program a success,” added Wu. 

The application for the new permanent program will be available at the end of February with the goal of having restaurant patios operational by early May. While filling out the applications online, businesses must submit clearly engineered site plans and set up for their dining services to ensure that all the plans meet the state building code requirements. Staff members from the City Council will be assisting business owners with the technicalities and setup plans. 

Although this is a significant step in revamping the post-pandemic outdoor dining plan, Boston’s North End has mixed feelings about it. The area with around 95 restaurants will not be permitted to continue outdoor dining. Instead, limited sidewalk spaces will be allocated, and restaurants in the area will only be allowed for outdoor dining if their plan complies with the accessibility and licensing norms. This measure was prompted by residents’ serious complaints about traffic, sanitation and accessibility. 

The Mayor’s Office said in the official statement that the city would formulate a task force to address and resolve these problems in the future. This year, the city also committed that it would buy back the jersey barriers from the restaurant owners in North End and assist financially with storage-related costs. 

All the businesses eligible to apply for the outdoor dining plan can start filling out the application form starting Feb. 23, 2023. All the qualifying restaurants will be subjected to a fee that they will be required to pay each month. Businesses with a liquor license will pay $399 monthly and $199 for restaurants without liquor licenses. In a statement, the city said, “fees will go toward technical assistance for hiring architects to draft site plans, with the goal of expanding the program to businesses that would not otherwise be able to participate.” 

Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion Segun Idowu also briefly remarked on the new plan and said that the outdoor dining plan helped many small businesses and restaurants around the city during and after the pandemic. The city and Idowu are thrilled to continue the program with a more streamlined process. 

The city held several meetings with business owners and community members to gain the residents’ input and opinions on the new program. The temporary program, which is now expected to become a permanent outdoor dining plan, received feedback and concerns from the public during these meetings. Residents and restaurant owners are encouraged to send all their comments and concerns regarding the program to [email protected]. 

Sources: 

1. https://www.boston.gov/news/mayor-wu-announces-citywide-permanent-outdoor-dining-program 

2. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2023/02/17/business/new-outdoor-dining-rules-are-different-north-end-heres-what-you-need-know/ 

3. https://www.boston.com/news/restaurants/2023/02/17/north-end-boston-outdoor-dining-program-summer/ 

About the Contributor
Kaushar Barejiya, News Editor