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Outdoor dining will begin in Boston on April 1

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Licensing Board

The City of Boston will provide additional assistance to restaurants and open outdoor dining sooner if weather permits.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced that in collaboration with the Boston Licensing Board and City departments, outdoor dining for restaurants in Boston will begin on April 1, 2021. 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. A start date of April 1 is weather-dependent, and City departments are meeting regularly and observing the weather forecast to determine whether an earlier start date is possible.

“Outdoor dining contributes to a vibrant, welcoming city, and we’ve seen the benefits outdooring 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. “Boston has worked hard to ensure this is an accessible, streamlined process for businesses, and I look forward to the 2021 outdoor dining season starting this spring.”

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, and the City will also be accepting applications from restaurants who 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 include:

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.)

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 more than 370 applications of which more than 150 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.

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 $15.1 million to more than 3,700 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.

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