Boston's Outdoor Dining Program to Return in Spring After 2020 Success

About 550 Boston restaurants participated in this year's program, according to Mayor Marty Walsh.

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Boston is bringing back its outdoor dining program in the spring, an initiative started this year to help restaurants survive during the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Marty Walsh announced Thursday.

Online applications for the program scheduled to start April 1 -- earlier if weather allows -- are being accepted now, the mayor said in a statement.

Under the program, restaurants may be given permission to place outdoor seating on public property, including parking spaces and streets.

The new program will include some new twists based on business and community feedback, he said.

"This year we saw the benefits outdoor dining can have on our neighborhoods: vibrant streets, support for local businesses, a safe and enjoyable experience for restaurant goers, and, in many ways, a lifeline for our small businesses during this challenging time,'' Walsh said in a statement.

About 550 restaurants participated in this year's program, according to Walsh.

"We have appreciated the feedback from restaurants and residents, and look forward to their continued input as we develop a outdoor dining plan for next year that balances public health, our restaurants, and our residents," Walsh said.

City officials have made a series of changes from the 2020 program, based on the feedback they received from the public, including: 

  • Moving the application process to another online platform where businesses can track the status of their applications for more transparency
  • Additional time built into the process, so that restaurants can procure proper materials and plan for operations that will include an outdoor dining space 
  • Clear guidance for outdoor dining on public and private property that will be available in both English and Spanish, with other languages available upon request.
  • Consistent enforcement that will focus on ensuring licensees adhere to all requirements issued by the City to ensure outdoor dining is safe and enjoyable 
  • 1:1 assistance for restaurant owners who require support and/or translation of the online application 

Recognizing that each neighborhood has its own opportunities and challenges for outdoor dining, the City of Boston is also working to address the specific needs of restaurants, residents, and visitors across neighborhoods.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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