Outdoor dining in Boston is here to stay, at least during the coronavirus pandemic, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced Tuesday, along with new bus and bike lanes.
The outdoor dining season was initially supposed to end Oct. 31, but restaurants will be able to keep tables on sidewalks and behind barriers in parking spots until at least Dec. 1. If their outdoor seats are on private property, they can stay indefinitely, until the end of the public health emergency Walsh declared because of the pandemic.
"We're trying to help our restaurants continue to take advantage of our outdoor space as long as possible," he said Tuesday at his regular coronavirus news conference.
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He also addressed the newly announced mayoral run of City Councilor Michelle Wu. And he announced new investments in public transit that will change the makeup of city streets.
The city will install new bus lanes on Columbus Avenue in Egleston/Jackson Square, North Washington Street in the North and West ends and Washington Street in Roslindale, all places "where working people rely on MBTA buses very heavily," Walsh said.
And many pop-up bike lanes created in downtown Boston will be made permanent, the mayor said, asking for patience as construction workers make the changes.
As for outdoor dining, which has been a lifeline for many restaurant owners, 550 permits have been issued so far. Looking ahead to fall and winter, many have started to put out propane heaters.
Walsh noted that he's heard meteorologists forecast that the rest of the year will be mild, and joked, "please keep it up so we can help our restaurants."
Boston has helped restaurants put up barriers and ramps, but beyond waiving fees for permits to use heaters, establishments won’t be getting any assistance to buy equipment to keep diners warm.
“We won’t have enough money, I think, to be able to build infrastructure around these facilities," Walsh said, adding, "we’re going to try to continue to be creative as we move forward.“
Restaurants will also have to continue to abide by safety regulations.
Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker extended the window for outdoor dining across Massachusetts as well.