One of the silver linings to living with COVID-19 this year has been the expansion of outdoor dining options in the South End and on Newbury and Boylston Streets in the Back Bay – not to mention the efforts of businesses in the Fenway around the ballfield, and the enthusiastic success that it has found with customers and purveyors alike.
Whether eating clams and drinking a brew literally on Newbury Street, enjoying the weather outside in the South End at expertly innovated sidewalk dining experiences, or any number of other accommodations, the program has proven so successful that many would like to see it continue.
Count Mayor Martin Walsh as a convert.
In comments at the annual Chat with the Mayor in the South End Forum meeting on Monday, Walsh said he was open to looking at making such permits granted for restaurants this summer a more permanent fixture citywide even after COVID-19.
“We’re having a conversation now about that,” he said. “I like the fact we have outdoor dining and it’s added a whole new and different dynamic to the communities. I love the idea…I hope to pick it up in the spring and have a conversation then with Licensing to make it permanent.”
Outdoor dining became a necessity to keep restaurants open in the initial COVID-19 opening restrictions levied by the state in June, but the warm and pleasant summer months also made the outdoor option very popular amongst diners from the community and those that might be visiting as well. Adding in the creativity of the restaurateurs to create a fun space that was comfortable and safe, and the swim-or-sink introduction became a valuable amenity for businesses across the downtown neighborhoods.
The City just recently extended the outdoor permits that have been granted already to Dec. 1, as they were to expire on Oct. 31. They also instituted a grant program to help permitted restaurants to get heating equipment and to make seasonal accommodations to the spaces. For most restaurateurs, the winter is a scary reality that is coming very soon, when even outdoor dining likely can’t be a saving grace. The push now is to assure diners that it is safe to come inside and that COVID-19 precautions and air circulation systems create as safe environment to come in from the cold.
However, those that can weather the storm have also expressed the desire to make this summer’s accommodations a reality next spring and summer too.
So far, Mayor Walsh is also on board with the idea.