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2021 Outdoor Dining Pilot program

The Licensing Board has taken steps to streamline existing processes. Our goal is to simplify requirements for small businesses and restaurants.

Small businesses and restaurants will be able to apply for a single-season, 2021-only license extension for outdoor dining. You can find information about how to apply below.

Have questions? Contact the team:

Map of outdoor dining locations

Map of 2021 outdoor dining locations

View a map of outdoor dining locations approved for 2021 in Boston.
Show Map

How to apply

BEFORE YOU APPLY

A licensed premise is defined as a premise licensed by the City's Licensing Board holding a valid common victualler license or alcoholic beverage license.

Please review the links below for an overview of requirements, guidelines, and other information:

Please note:

Were you approved during the 2020 temporary outdoor dining program? It's not guaranteed that you will be approved for the same setup in 2021. We will review applications based on several factors. These factors include:

  • accommodating for ongoing COVID-19 measures
  • feedback from 2020, and
  • scheduled street and construction work.
SUBMITTING YOUR APPLICATION

Multiple City departments need to review applications for an outdoor dining extension, whether onto private property, public sidewalks or public streets. This is to make sure any extensions can be done while keeping patrons and employees safe.

After you review the information in the "Before you apply" section, please complete the application:

2021 outdoor dining application

Please note:

Any approval will be made on a single-season, non-precedent setting basis. If you are approved, you must abide by all rules, regulations, laws, advisories, and guidelines issued by the City, state, and federal government. These include all social distancing requirements.

All of the foregoing may be amended by the respective agencies at any time.

Key dates

December 9, 2020:

The 2021 Outdoor Dining Pilot program announced. Our online application opens for Licensees on this date.

January 18, 2021:

The initial deadline for licensees to submit an application to receive a decision or follow-up questions from our team by February 19, 2021. Licensees may also submit an application after this date to participate. We review these applications on an ongoing basis.

February 19, 2021: 

We will notify licensees of approvals or requests for more information by this date if they submitted their application by January 18, 2021.

March 15, 2021: 

Soft deadline for North End licensees to submit 2021 outdoor dining applications. Due to the high density of restaurants and residents in the North End, this deadline will help the outdoor dining team to better understand the impact outdoor dining will have on parking and other curb uses in the North End. We want to better anticipate the accommodations needed.

March 22, 2021:

Due to the weather forecast, outdoor dining for approved restaurants in Boston will now begin on March 22. This is an earlier start than the previously-announced date of April 1. 

Application support

Support

We are offering free one-on-one support for licensees who need translation or other help in filling out the 2021 outdoor dining application. If you would like to request support, please reach out to 2021outdoordining@boston.gov.

During this session we will provide an overview of the application process for the 2021 Outdoor Dining Pilot program. There will be an opportunity for a question and answer session for applicants regarding the application and program.

Registration is required, please sign up using our Zoom registration link.

Interpretation for this session is available upon request. Please contact 2021outdoordining@boston.gov by 12 p.m. (noon) on December 28 for more information.

During this session we will provide an overview of the application process for the 2021 Outdoor Dining Pilot program. There will be an opportunity for a question and answer session for applicants regarding the application and program.

Registration is required, please sign up using our Zoom registration link.

Interpretation for this session is available upon request. Please contact 2021outdoordining@boston.gov by 12 p.m. (noon) on January 4 for more information.

During this session we will provide an overview of the application process for the 2021 Outdoor Dining Pilot program. There will be an opportunity for a question and answer session for applicants regarding the application and program.

Registration is required, please sign up using our Zoom registration link.

Interpretation for this session is available upon request. Please contact 2021outdoordining@boston.gov by 12 p.m. (noon) on January 11 for more information.

Common questions

Common questions

How long is the 2021 single-season outdoor seating license going to be allowed?

Outdoor dining on public property is permitted until December 1, 2021 (weather permitting). Outdoor dining on private property is currently permitted indefinitely for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Read the Advisory. Please note: This is on a non-precedent setting basis due to COVID-19.

Can I submit an application for the 2021 outdoor seating season? When is the cutoff?

Yes, the application is open for submissions. These applications are reviewed and issued a decision in the order they are received. There is currently an initial deadline of January 18, 2021, for applications to be submitted if you would like to receive a decision or follow-up questions from our team by February 19, 2021. Applications submitted after this initial deadline will be reviewed and issued a decision in the order they are received. 

What is the turnaround time before I am approved?

If you submit your application by January 18, 2021, you will receive an approval decision or follow-up questions from our team by February 19, 2021. If you submit an application after January 18, 2021, it will be reviewed and issued a decision in the order received.

Please note: The process for a temporary extension on private property can typically be reviewed and approved more quickly than on public property. This is due to the potential public safety and accessibility issues on public property. 

If I was approved for outdoor seating during the 2020 temporary program, do I need to re-apply for 2021?

Yes. Licensees who were approved during the 2020 temporary program will need to re-apply to participate in the 2021 pilot season. This applies to extensions on public property and on private property. 

Who do I contact to see if a place is permitted to have outdoor seating?

Once the 2021 season begins, there will be a list of approved locations available on this webpage. You may also email LicensingBoard@boston.gov.

I would like to request an extension on private and public property? How do I go about doing that?

You will need to complete an online application and select both private property and public property in the application.

What happens if a review of my application determines that neither the sidewalk or the parking lane is feasible?

The Board will suggest that you find a non-contiguous space which you can apply for through the Special One-day application. There is no fee for this application for the temporary outdoor extension, with the exception of Beer Gardens with capacities over 150 persons.

Where can I submit a complaint?

You may submit a complaint through the Mayor's 311 Hotline.

How do I get "no parking" signs for my approved parking lane extension?

If you are approved for the parking lane, you may contact your neighborhood liaison to obtain the "no parking" signs for your extension.

Who is enforcing the rules of the outdoor seating?

The Licensing Board are enforcing the rules on outdoor seating with the assistance of:

  • the Boston Police
  • Transportation Department
  • Health Department, and
  • the Public Improvement Commission.

All restaurants with outdoor seating (approved and non-approved) will have on-site inspections throughout the extension period.

Those with immediate public safety hazards will be asked to cease operations immediately until the public safety concern has been rectified. Issues that are not considered a public safety hazard will be given 48 hours to rectify the issue.

What are the hours of operation? 

  • Sunday through Thursday: 10 p.m. (Patrons out by 10:30 p.m.)
  • Friday through Saturday: 11 p.m. (Patrons out by 11:30 p.m.)

Does the City have barriers that we can use?

No. The City is not providing barriers at this time.

Does the City have ADA compliant accessible ramps that we can use?

Please indicate in the online application that you need help procuring a ramp. You may also reach out to the Disabilities Commission 

What is the policy on masks?

Please stay up to date with the State and City of Boston COVID-19 guidelines. 

All licensed premise staff must wear masks at all times. Face shields are not sufficient, per health guidelines. Patrons must wear masks until they have been seated for service.

Can we play music?

Entertainment of any sort is not permitted on single-season, 2021-only outdoor extensions at this time. This may be revisited in the future. Licensed premises who hold an annual entertainment license that permits entertainment on the patio are permitted entertainment. 

Licensed premises who hold an annual entertainment license for inside the establishment may have background music indoors only. Live entertainment (for example, dancing, DJ, karaoke, and trivia) is not permitted at this time. Read more about the advisories issued by the Board.

How far do the tables have to be?

Please stay up to date with the State and City of Boston COVID-19 guidelines. 

Tables must be at least six feet apart measured from table to table (not chairs), per state guidelines.

How many customers can I have at each table?

Please stay up to date with the State and City of Boston COVID-19 guidelines. 

A maximum of six patrons per table is permitted in Boston.

I already have a patio. Do I still need to apply for this license?

If you have been approved for a patio, you will not need to apply for this temporary extension. However, if you would like to expand your existing patio further or use other spaces that have not been approved by the Board, then you will need to apply.

Can I serve alcohol on my approved extension?

If you currently hold a license to sell beer, wine, malts, or liquor then yes, you may serve this on your contiguous extension. However, if your extension is non-contiguous, with the approval of the Special One-day permits, you may only serve beer and malt beverages.

What does a 'contiguous' extension mean?

Contiguous is defined as land adjoining or touching by common corner or otherwise.

If I am requesting an extension across the street, is that allowed?

It may be permitted with the approval of the reviewer team, on a case-by-case basis. However, spaces across from the licensed premise is considered non-contiguous and would require a Special One-day permit.

Can a retail package malt and wine grocery store apply for outdoor extension?

No, they may not.

Can we use couches on our outdoor extension?

Couches are not permitted.

Do we have to serve food?

More information will be shared closer to the 2021 season start. Please stay up to date with the State and City of Boston COVID-19 guidelines.

Can we use heaters on the outdoor patios?

Please review the 2021 guidance for more information.

Heaters may be allowed on outdoor patios with approval from the Boston Fire Department and/or Inspectional Services Department with a Temporary Heater Permit. A permit is required for both private and public property. Applicants may apply on the Fire Prevention permitting portal. Click here to see how you can apply. Once the application intake and special hazard review are approved, an inspector from the Special Hazards Unit will conduct a site visit. All permits applied for online will be paid for online and the customer will be able to print their permit.  

There will be no storing of propane permitted inside any buildings. Propane cylinders may not be stored in the temporary heaters overnight. Temporary heaters must be stored away properly and locked together in a safe area of the property which has been approved by the Boston Fire Department's Special Hazard Unit.

This is the list of requirements needed to apply correctly:

  • The number of heaters, propane cylinders, and size of the cylinder (maximum size of cylinder 20 pounds, for example, same-size propane tank used for outdoor grills).
  • Attach the specification (spec) sheets of the heater and the spec sheet for the approved propane storage cage, cabinet, or locker, that will be used onsite.
  • Need to have a steel propane cage, cabinet, or locker that locks to store the propane when the heaters are not being used.
  • Attach a site plan showing the patio layout with the location of where the temporary heaters and where the storage cage will be located.

Note: Hard-piping is not permitted if heaters are located on public property, such as the sidewalk or a parking lane. They would need to be movable tanks. In addition, fuel tanks may not be stored overnight on public property. Fuel tanks cannot block any door or egress.

If you have any other questions or concerns, you can reach out to Fire Department's Special Hazards Unit at 617-343-3447 or email:

Electric Heaters: You may use electric heaters without a permit from the City. The City is temporarily allowing one cord to run across the public realm (for example, a sidewalk) with the following conditions: 

  • Covered by sturdy plastic casings
  • Secured firmly to the ground (no drilling or other surface penetrations)
  • High visibility / high contrast in color
  • Low profile in height
  • Cords and covers shall be removed from the sidewalk when the seating is not in use
  • No more than one cord crossing the sidewalk per restaurant (an extension cord may be used in the dining area to allow for more electric heaters; cords must be safely secured to prevent patrons from tripping)

Are animals allowed on the patios?

Animals are not permitted on the outdoor extensions, per health code and state law, with the exception of certified service dogs for persons with disabilities (physical or sensory). Emotional support dogs are NOT permitted on the patio. Generally, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless such devices interfere with the animal's work or the customer's disability. Restaurant staff may ask if a dog is used for a disability and will have to trust the patron's word.