Sidewalks across Boston could transform into outdoor patios

The Boston Licensing Board approved an emergency measure on Thursday streamlining the process for establishments to expand to outdoor dining spaces.

BOSTON — There’s a new glimmer of hope for restaurants across Boston once the dine-in ban is lifted.

The Boston Licensing Board approved an emergency measure on Thursday streamlining the process for establishments to expand to outdoor dining spaces.

So far, 147 restaurants have filled out the city’s questionnaire, expressing interest in applying for emergency approval to use outdoor seating.

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The pandemic-related plan aims to allow restaurants to move tables and chairs out onto sidewalks and possibly parking spots.

Mayor Marty Walsh said the city is still working out the details of how patio approval will work.

Under the emergency measure, business owners can skip the process of meeting with neighborhood groups and scheduling a public hearing.

“It could be a viable solution,” said Gianni Frattaroli, general manager of Artu. “Who doesn’t want to sit outside in the summertime?”

Gianni Frattaroli estimates that his North End restaurant could potentially seat an additional 40 people outside the establishment’s Prince Street location.

“Luckily we have three store fronts, so we have a decent amount of space. There’s still a gray area of what you’ll actually be allowed to do,” said Frattaroli.

The emergency measure is offering a glimmer of hope to many restaurants that have been trying to stay afloat on takeout and delivery.

The earliest restaurants in Massachusetts could potentially offer sit down service is June 8th, but that date remains up in the air.

“Hopefully this will draw more attention, and we can start to recover from the losses we’ve had,” said Greg Bonnett, general manager of Abby Lane in the Theater District.

Greg Bonnett estimates he could potentially add four additional tables to the sidewalk outside his restaurant.

He said that would still make a big difference due to the shrinking capacity of indoor space based on social distancing guidelines.

“Even if you add just one more table. That’s a couple hundred dollars a night,” said Bonnett. “We are hoping the city will be more clear on what the restrictions are and soon so we have time to set up and prepare.”

The licensing board also voted to rescind a regulation that restricts restaurants to only serve alcohol outdoors to those who order food.

Walsh said small restaurants and those without outside dining could expand to sidewalks and patios under new rules the City Council passed. He's asking business owners to fill out a survey and get in touch with the city.

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