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2021 Outdoor Dining pilot program announced

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Economic Development

Applications for next year's outdoor dining season are now open.

Building on Boston's ongoing commitment to supporting restaurants during COVID-19, Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the launch of an outdoor dining pilot program for the 2021 season. The 2021 Outdoor Dining Pilot Program will continue many of the successful initiatives from this year's program, such as streamlined permitting and outdoor patios on roadways that enable restaurants with narrow sidewalks to offer patio seating to patrons, while offering new features based on community feedback. Applications for outdoor dining licenses on both public and private property are now open. You can apply online.

"I'm pleased to announce an outdoor dining pilot program for the 2021 season. 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," said Mayor 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."

The 2021 Outdoor Dining Pilot Program season will begin on April 1, 2021, or earlier if weather permits, and will end on December 1, 2021, weather permitting. Restaurants who took part in the 2020 temporary outdoor dining program and who wish to do so in 2021 must re-apply. We will also be accepting applications from restaurants who did not take part in the 2020 temporary outdoor dining program. For the 2020 temporary outdoor dining season, the Licensing Board for the City of Boston approved more than 550 requests for outdoor dining licenses with over 415 on public property. Of the total approved outdoor spaces, applications from every single neighborhood in the City of Boston were represented. 

The City has made a series of changes from the temporary 2020 program, based on feedback 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. The full guidance is available online, here

  • 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 is also working to address the specific needs of restaurants, residents, and visitors across neighborhoods.

There will also be virtual application help sessions available to assist restaurants in preparing and submitting their applications. The first session is scheduled for Wednesday, December 16 at 5:00 pm. Registration is required, please sign up using this link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_dDhCJ7pbTBadsxA18rFesg. Interpretation for this session is available upon request, please contact 2021outdoordining@boston.gov for more information.  

This announcement builds on the work the Walsh Administration has done to support restaurants during the City's COVID-19 response. In May, the City of Boston announced new measures to help restaurants during the ongoing public health crisis, including expanding outdoor seating, and waiving fees for outdoor space. The City also extended its outdoor dining program past the original closure date of October 31 to December 1, to further support restaurants during this time. To ensure accessibility of on-street dining during the 2020 season, the Mayor's Commission for Persons with Disabilities procured and distributed approximately 90 portable ramps to restaurants at no cost. The Commission has additional ramps available to expand this support in 2021.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Boston has been steadfast in its commitment to supporting the small business community. Nearly $6.7 million in debt-free grants have been distributed to over 1,850 small businesses in every neighborhood across the City of Boston through the Office of Economic Development's Small Business Relief Fund. Last month, the City launched three new funds totaling $6.3 million that will support small businesses in Boston that have been affected by COVID-19, focusing on commercial rent relief, supporting certified women, minority, and veteran owned small businesses, and restaurant relief. And to further assist the City's small businesses, the City of Boston has created a list of suppliers to help businesses source the personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies required to ensure the safety of employees and customers as industries reopen. 

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