Restaurant owners welcome Baker legislation extending outdoor dining in MA

DEDHAM, Mass. — Restaurant owners like Allan Rodriguez are happy to hear they can likely keep their additional seating outdoors for six more months.

“It’s probably one of those things that really saved the business,” said Rodriguez, who owns El Centro in Dedham as well as two locations in Boston.

Those outdoor permits were set to expire on June 15 as the State of Emergency comes to an end, but MA Gov. Charlie Baker proposed new legislation Tuesday to extend outdoor dining through November 29.

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“It will take more than a couple years, even with the outside patio, to break even,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said it’ll be awhile before they make back the money they lost from the pandemic but having outdoor seating for longer will help.

“Restauranteurs made pretty significant investments, and so the last thing we want to is to make those for not, and the guests just really enjoyed it and cities and towns enjoyed it,” said Bob Luz, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.

Luz said so many owners spent thousands of dollars on their outdoor set-ups from tables and chairs to heaters, so being able to get more use out of these set-ups is huge.

“Pandemic or no pandemic, Massachusetts likes to eat outside,” Luz said.

Now Luz said restaurant owners are hoping the state considers allowing outdoor dining even past November.

“We’re excited, but we also look forward to continuing the dialogue and really making this expanded authorization hopefully permanent,” Luz said.

Most diners agree the additional outdoor seating is a plus.

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“I think we all want to be outside right now,” said Antoinette McMillan while dining in Dedham.

But some worry about the lack of parking now that outdoor tables have replaced lots of parking spots in cities and towns across Massachusetts.

“I think we passed up on a couple restaurants that we couldn’t find parking,” McMillan said. “So, I’m not sure how that affects business.”

State lawmakers will still need to approve the governor’s proposal on extending outdoor dining permits.

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