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Outdoor dining to begin in Boston on March 22

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Licensing Board

This is an earlier start than the previously-announced date of April 1.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced that in collaboration with the Boston Licensing Board and City departments, outdoor dining for approved restaurants in Boston will now begin on March 22 due to the weather forecast. This is an earlier start than the previously-announced date of April 1. 

The 2021 Outdoor Dining Pilot Program will continue many of the successful initiatives from last 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, and businesses can apply online

The City has also focused on providing resources to businesses of color, and has made more than 200 personalized outreach calls to every business that applied for outdoor dining last year. The Mayor’s Office of Economic Development has met with the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition to ensure added technical assistance is available for businesses to apply. Weekly “Help Sessions” were held from December through January to help businesses navigate the pilot process. The City of Boston is also planning to host additional office hours and workshops to help businesses with their applications as needed.

“Outdoor dining was one of the bright spots last summer and fall, and we’ve seen the benefits it has had on our neighborhoods: supporting local businesses, a safe and enjoyable experience for restaurant patrons, and an added resource for Boston’s small businesses during this challenging time,” said Mayor Walsh. “I’m thrilled we are able to start this program even earlier, and I look forward to businesses and residents taking advantage of it.”

The 2021 Outdoor Dining Pilot Program season for approved restaurants will begin on March 22, 2021, and will end on December 1, 2021, weather permitting. Restaurants that took part in the 2020 temporary outdoor dining program and who wish to do so in 2021 must re-apply, and the City will also be accepting applications from restaurants that did not take part in the 2020 temporary outdoor dining program. 

The City has held a series of virtual training sessions to help businesses with the application process. Outreach to businesses on outdoor dining is a coordinated effort through the Licensing Board, Office of Economic Development, Office of Neighborhood Services, and Boston Main Streets. 

Updated support for businesses includes:

  • Waived fees to reduce barriers to applying to the program, including Licensing Board fees and fees for the use of the public way.
  • Continued technical support and additional targeted outreach to help support underrepresented restaurant owners. Businesses can get direct support by emailing smallbiz@boston.gov.
  • Centralized online application that allows City departments to reduce administrative load of reviewing and approving applications and increases transparency in the review process for restaurant owners
  • Clearer guidance and instructions that improve upon the guidance offered in 2020 (more standardized site plan, clearer language around barrier requirements, etc.)
  • Office Hours and Webinars will be held on Friday, March 19 from 11am-1pm  and Thursday March 25 from 10am - 12pm. An instructional webinar will be hosted Thursday, March 18 at 5:30pm.  

Sessions available online: 

The office hours and webinar will be available on Zoom and streamed live on Facebook at facebook.com/econdevboston

The Boston Disabilities Commission will also again work closely with restaurants to distribute ramps throughout the City.

The online application went live on December 10, 2020 and to date, the City has received 434 applications of which 215 have been approved. For the 2020 temporary outdoor dining season, the Licensing Board 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. 

Restaurants that have been approved for outdoor dining can be found at boston.gov/restaurant-support

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Boston has been steadfast in its commitment to supporting the small business community. To date, the Office of Economic Development has issued $16.3 million to more than 4,000 businesses, of which $5 million has been directly allocated to nearly 1,000 restaurant owners. More than $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. In November 2020, the City launched three new funds totaling $6.3 million that 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. 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. 

Additional information on outdoor dining, and applications for businesses, is available on boston.gov.