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Temporary policy for retail extensions to sidewalks

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the City of Boston will temporarily allow retail businesses in neighborhood commercial districts to place a moveable table onto the public sidewalk for the purpose of facilitating outdoor transactions.

This extension supports businesses’ efforts to keep a safe and healthy environment for their staff and customers by limiting access to a confined indoor space. This temporary policy is in effect from April 1, 2021 - December 1, 2021.

Temporary Policy:

Retail businesses located on the ground floor will be allowed to extend a table onto the public walkway located directly outside the business by adhering to the following requirements:

  1. Massachusetts Architectural Access Board Regulations to ensure accessibility and prevent interference with public travel;
  2. The table does not impede on the public right of way, and allows for at least six foot wide clear and accessible path of travel past the table on the sidewalk and in areas with higher pedestrian volumes or adjacent to areas such as MBTA bus stops, a wider clear path of at least 8 feet of travel may be required by the City to provide appropriate distance between tables & customers and pedestrians; in addition, at no time may the width of the retail extension, defined as the table and space for customers, be greater than half the overall width of the sidewalk;
  3. The table does not block any accessible pedestrian ramps; 
  4. The business owner is responsible for ensuring that there is no littering, waste, or trash disposal onto the street and must place a waste-receptacle alongside the table;
  5. The table does not exceed 30" x 96" in dimension;
  6. The table has no protruding objects including merchandise;
  7. The table is not adhered or attached to any structures or fixtures;
  8. The table is maintained in good condition;
  9. The table is only placed adjacent (parallel) to the business unless the placement of the table there would block the pedestrian walkway, in that case, the table can be placed parallel to the business along the opposite side of the sidewalk (please see diagram below);
  10. The table is placed outdoors only during the hours of operation of the related business;
  11. The table is continuously staffed by the establishment, and employees are able to clear and remove the table immediately upon request;
  12. The table does not extend in front of abutting properties;
  13. The table is not used for advertising and only displays and is used for the pickup of items limited to the retail establishment's merchandise; 
  14. The business owner is responsible for ensuring that the table is cleaned regularly and staff are trained to follow all health & safety protocols for hygiene as recommended by the Boston Public Health Commission; 
  15. The business is responsible for ensuring that hand sanitizer is made available on the table or near the table for customer use;
  16. This temporary permission does not grant allowance of placement of any other items (except for one chair for staffing purposes);
  17. The business informs the City of Boston of this use of the sidewalk by filling out this form.

Retail table graphic

Disclaimer: No License or other right is created by this temporary policy. The City may modify or terminate this policy at its discretion. The City may require a retail business to move or remove any table at any time that the City determines that the placement or operation of the table interferes with the orderly or accessible use of the public right of way, even if such table is otherwise in compliance with this policy. Retail businesses that place a table on the public right of way do so at their own risk, and not under any license, permit, contract or other agreement with the City of Boston. 


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