Restaurants Look for Space Anywhere They Can Find It

When Petit Robert Bistro on Columbus Avenue in the South End needed to re-open, space was the number one concern.

With an existing patio dining situation from before COVID-19, Petit Robert had the idea already, but needed to create more room.

So they turned to their neighbor, carpenter Chris DeBord – who built one of the most popular and luxurious parklet seating areas so far in the South End.

“I’ve lived here for many, many years and I’ve had more than a few good meals here at this restaurant,” said DeBord last Friday. “We need to help them out now. We figured if you’re going to build this, why not go a little further and make it really nice.”

The City of Boston has been bending over backward to help restaurants throughout the City – but some of the earliest entries in creative eating has come in the South End.

Mayoral Liaison Faisa Sharif told the Blackstone/Franklin Neighborhood Association late last month that there would be a lot of creative concepts being rolled out – including taking over sidewalks, reducing parking spaces and closing off streets in some instances.

With no indoor dining permitted right now, and likely only a small percentage permitted in the next phase, finding outdoor space to increase the numbers of tables that can be served will be key.

“We want to see if while the weather is good we can help them replace some of those tables from inside in expanded outdoor area, but we’re going to have to be creative,” she said.

That has been unfolding over the last 10 days on just about every block.

At Petit Robert, they have greatly expanded on their sidewalk, and the parklet is parked on three street parking spaces.

DeBord said he has made a living out of restoring old brownstones and historic homes in the South End. His specialty is design and historic renovations.

On Friday, he said it was the first restaurant parklet he had ever built, but he said he was having fun with it.

“I think it will be fun to come down here and eat on it,” he said. “I think anyone would like to eat here.” By last weekend, the parklet and outdoor seating at Petit Robert were bustling with activity, likely the busiest sidewalk serving bistro in the city.

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