Outdoor Seating on Private Property Extended, Public Space Program Ends

Mayor Martin Walsh reminded owners that outdoor dining on private property was extended indefinitely without the need for further permits.

However, the city’s “Public Space” program expired Tuesday. Restaurant owners in the Back Bay trying to increase business by providing an outdoor dining option will now have to start packing up their outdoor tables, chairs, heating lamps and barriers and rely solely on limited indoor dining throughout the winter months if they don’t have private space for outdoor dining.

The Public Space program allowed restaurants throughout the Back Bay to use city sidewalks, streets, parking lots and to set up tables, chairs and other amenities for outdoor dining.

“For restaurants, we have plans to continue our outdoor dining option,” said Walsh last week during a press conference. “The public space ended on December 1. But, outdoor dining may continue on private property indefinitely. In addition, we are working on an outdoor dining program for the spring.”

The Back Bay and Boston’s restaurant industry has been hit particularly hard by the ongoing pandemic. Tough regulations for indoor dining and other restrictions imposed by the state during the latest COVID spike made the Public Space program a godsend for some.

To offer some relief the Walsh Administration launched the Public Space program last spring and allowed Back Bay restaurants to use sidewalk space and the street on main thoroughfares like Newbury and Boylston Streets to set up outdoor patios. The program was designed to help restaurants that dot the neighborhood increase their customer base because the number of patrons allowed inside were strictly limited due to COVID restrictions.

However, even with a rapid expansion of outdoor dining options in the Back Bay, some restaurants still fell victim to the pandemic and could not increase margins enough to justify staying open.

Over the summer Whiskey’s and McGreevy’s closed their doors. Then this past fall the popular bars Pour House and Lir shut down.

While it remains to be seen if the Pour House will reopen under new owners, Lir, the 17-year-old Irish Pub on Boylston Street, announced its closure in September and wrote in a statement, “We have all witnessed some amazing things together. Title winning championships, marathons, parades. The list could go on forever. Our mission has always been to make Lir your home away from home, whether you’re Irish, American, or a little bit of both. It pains us to leave you, but we can assure you that these memories will live on.”

On September 15, the Boston Licensing Board issued an advisory regarding the extension of the City’s Temporary Outdoor Dining Program and the use of approved heaters.

The board ruled restaurants utilizing public sidewalks and parking lanes for outdoor dining may continue the approved use of those spaces until December 1, 2020. However, the board said outdoor dining on private property will be extended for the duration of the COVID-19 related public health emergency.

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