BOSTON — Restaurant owners say outdoor dining helped keep their doors open during the pandemic, but the cold weather coming in will put a wrench in their business plans.
Modern Pastry Owner John Picariello says outdoor dining was a saving grace during the pandemic when indoor dining wasn’t allowed yet. Restaurants and bars were struggling to get by after they were ordered to close their doors for dining when the pandemic first started in March. Business owners say offering just take out and delivery options were severely hurting their revenue stream.
“It’s not that easy to move the barriers and the chairs and the tables and store it because you need space for all of it,” said Picariello.
Boston’s outdoor dining in public areas like sidewalks and streets has to be cleared by Dec. 1, according to orders issued by Mayor Marty Walsh. Modern Pastry will now rely on fewer tables in their spaced out cafe and downstairs dining room.
The owner says they are keeping the tables more than 6 feet apart.
“I’m going to follow the guidelines,” said Picariello. “I don’t want anyone getting sick on my watch.”
But even with the protocols, people are split on moving inside to eat out.
“I have no problem with going inside,” said Mike Gillespie.
“I actually have had Covid-19 so there is no way I would feel comfortable eating inside right now,” said Dariel Meehan.
The Massachusetts Restaurant Association asked Governor Charlie Baker to lift the mandate decreeing earlier closing times for restaurants on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, but they have not heard back. Owners say that the 9 to 11 p.m. window is a critical time of day for business.
“People coming out for that late night drink and a pastry, or late night food, pickies and things like that, and that business is not existent right now,” Picariello.
Picariello has watched fellow restaurant owners call it quits, but with decades of family success he says he will figure it out.
“Modern Pastry is going to hang on,” said Picariello. “We’ve been here forever.”
The Massachusetts Restaurant association also told us they are working with places like Boston to create a robust outdoor dining plan for as early as April 1st. The plan would streamline permitting and other issues so restaurants can set up a more engaging place to eat outside. Of course, business owners all hope that won’t be necessary.
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