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Streamlined process to help restaurants as part of COVID-19 reopening process

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Licensing Board

The Licensing Board for the City of Boston has taken steps to streamline existing processes and remove outdated restrictions on small businesses and restaurants.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the Licensing Board for the City of Boston (the "Board") has taken steps to streamline existing processes and remove outdated restrictions to help small businesses and restaurants as part of the COVID-19 reopening process. 

At its voting hearing on Thursday, May 21, 2020 the Board took the following actions: 

  • Voted to pass an emergency amendment to its General Rules codifying its existing administrative review of temporary extensions of licensed premise onto outdoor space using its existing One Day Amendment to Existing License Application;
  • Voted to administratively lift citywide the preexisting condition of "alcohol with food only" on outdoor space or any other similar condition that prohibits the sale and service of alcohol on outdoor space without the service of a food item; 
  • The Board, Boston Transportation Department, Inspectional Services Department, Public Improvement Commission, and Public Works Department will waive fees for the approved use of outdoor space for this program, on both public and private property, on a temporary, non-precedent setting basis.

"We've said from the beginning that Boston's reopening process must take a cautious approach that puts science and public health at the forefront of our discussions," said Mayor Walsh. "It's my hope that these updated protocols will help ensure proper social distancing, and give much-needed assistance to the small businesses that are the lifeblood of Boston's neighborhoods."

On Monday, the Licensing Board issued a questionnaire for businesses that will be used as the starting point for both identifying opportunities for temporary extensions onto outdoor space both on public and private property. Extensions into the public way, whether sidewalks or streets, require evaluation by multiple departments to confirm doing so can be done while ensuring the safety of patrons and employees. The goal is to be able to process and approve these temporary extensions administratively without requiring hearings, fees, or multiple applications going to multiple departments. To date, 147 businesses have filled out the questionnaire across the city ranging from small restaurants and coffee shops in neighborhoods to restaurants downtown. The questionnaire is for businesses who have licenses from the Licensing Board. 

The data from the questionnaire, in addition to serving as the starting point for the review process, also informs City departments which neighborhoods may not be aware of the temporary extension process so that outreach can be targeted to ensure businesses across the city have access to this opportunity.

These new protocols are part of the Walsh Administration's ongoing work to support small businesses during this challenging time. On Thursday, Mayor Walsh announced that nearly $4 million in public and private debt-free grants have been distributed to just over 1,100 small businesses in every neighborhood across the City of Boston through the Small Business Relief Fund, including the $2 million distributed to businesses earlier this month. The businesses receiving grants represent industries most-impacted by closures, policies, or general loss of revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic throughout every neighborhood in Boston.

Managed by the Mayor's Office of Economic Development (OED), this new fund was designed to disburse grants through a streamlined process without having to assume additional debt, which can be used to address rent, fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, lost sales, lost opportunities, and other working capital expenses. Through a combination of City, Federal, and private funds, a total of $7.5 million has been made available to fully fund all remaining eligible grant requests that were submitted during the application process. 

To further assist the City's small businesses, the City of Boston has created a new platform to help businesses source the personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies they will be required to have available in order to ensure the safety of employees and customers as industries begin to reopen. Along with industry-specific reopening requirements, the page includes a list of self-identified, local suppliers of PPE and cleaning supplies, information on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' vendor database, and partner organizations helping to connect businesses with vendors.

As business owners, employers, and employees navigate an evolving COVID-19-related assistance landscape, the Economic Development Office has created a Federal Assistance GuideFinancial Relief Handbook and FAQ document, all of which are continuously updated. Small Business conference calls will continue every Tuesday at 3pm to communicate policy updates, answer questions, feature relevant City of Boston departments, and troubleshoot the ecosystem of funding available from the state, federal, and private industry. 

The City of Boston has created a number of useful guides and resources for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 and the Commonwealth's Non-Essential Services and "Stay At Home" Order. The Open Businesses in Boston and Support Boston Restaurants platforms have helped businesses to publicly share that they are open and direct residents into supporting local establishments. The above resources and more industry-specific guidance are accessible on boston.gov/small-business. For all coronavirus updates from the City of Boston, please visit boston.gov/coronavirus.

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