In this post COVID-19 surge world, not all restaurants in East Boston are created equal. On Saturday Mayor Martin Walsh signaled restaurants that have been forced to switch to a take-out or delivery model during the COVID-19 shutdown can slowly begin dine-in service following the state’s Phase II reopening plan.
However, there is a catch.
Restaurant owners can only reopen with a limited amount of patrons designated to ‘outdoor’ seating areas.
Some restaurants that dot Eastie’s business districts like the Cunard Tavern, Mavericks, Angela Cafe in Orient Heights or Taco Mex in Maverick Square are already equipped with outdoor dining, but other establishments without outdoor dining options will have to wait until they receive an outdoor dining permit from the city or hold on until Phase III to reopen indoor dining.
In preparing for restaurant reopenings Walsh and the Boston Licensing Board took steps to streamline existing processes for restaurants who wish to expand outdoor seating as part of the COVID-19 reopening process. These new processes make it easier for restaurants to take advantage of outdoor space in Boston when they are allowed to open.
Over 270 businesses have already begun this process throughout all of Boston’s neighborhoods.
Temporary street closures with barriers and signs will also be explored as part of the outdoor seating work, and to create better green links to parks and open spaces.
“Public space and transportation will be key to a healthy reopening and an equitable recovery,” said Chris Osgood, the city’s Chief of Streets. “Right now, that includes making sure hospital staff and front line workers can get to work safely and affordably, and rethinking how Boston’s streets best serve our residents. These changes to Boston’s streets are in line with Boston’s transportation goals of safety, access, and reliability, and the City’s work to create a safe city for every resident.”
While the permitting process was being fast tracked by the Licensing Board some are still waiting for their permits.
“Unfortunately, we are currently waiting on our patio permit to be allowed to open this upcoming week and going forward,” said Renegades Pub in Orient Heights Square in a statement. Renegades has been conducting a take-out and delivery option since the pandemic hit. “We are so excited to see you all and are waiting patiently for some updates.”
Owner of Cunard Tavern Phil Frattaroli said the restaurant’s rooftop deck will be able to serve patrons while following the state guidelines.
However, other restaurants like Mavericks, that have an outdoor patio area may wait a bit longer to reopen. Owner Dan Lyons said he probably won’t be ready until the end of next week. Lyons said he wants to make sure he and his staff are ready and prepared to meet all the guidelines set forth by the state.
Mayor Walsh cautioned this week that restaurant owners planning to re-open should be doing so gradually and cautiously, following all the state requirements.
“A gradual re-opening also means a gradual economic recovery,” said Walsh. “We know that many people are still struggling and will continue to struggle for some time, so we will continue to meet the needs of families, workers, seniors, and small businesses. We will continue to approach this work with equity for the communities with the deepest needs, informed by our Health Inequities Task Force. I want to thank the House of Representatives and Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Aaron Michlewitz for his leadership in passing a good Restaurant Relief bill, as we move forward with our plan to support outdoor dining and new revenue opportunities for restaurants.”
According to the reopening guidelines the Baker-Polito administration announced on May 29, the following applies to restaurants;
• Outdoor dining, where possible, will be allowed at the start of phase two
• Once indoor dining does resume later in phase two, restaurants that can, will be encouraged to continue focusing on outdoor dining as much as possible.
• Tables must be six feet apart and six feet away from high-traffic areas, like routes to the restrooms. The distance can be under six feet only if separated by non-porous barriers such as walls or plexiglass dividers that are at least six feet high.
• Both employees and customers should maintain a six-foot distance from others as much as possible (not congregating in break rooms or near restrooms, for example), and restaurants should post signage, use distance markers, etc. to enforce this.
• No more than six people can sit at a table together.
• Customers cannot sit at bars, although restaurants can reconfigure their bar areas into standard dining areas as long as existing building and fire code regulations are followed, along with COVID-19 safety guidelines regarding spacing.
• Along the same lines, customers cannot be served standing up (no bars, standing counters, etc.).
• Masks are required for both staff and customers, although customers can remove theirs when seated at a table.
• Condiments won’t be preset on tables and will instead be served upon request in single-serving containers. Likewise, utensils won’t be preset and must either be single-use or sanitized after each use, brought to the table rolled or otherwise packaged.
• Menus must either be single-use, disposable paper; a display, such as a whiteboard or chalkboard; or electronic and viewed on customers’ own mobile devices.
• Communal serving areas (such as unattended buffets, topping bars, and self-service stations) must remain closed for now.
• Restaurant areas not directly related to food and beverage service — such as dance floors and pool tables — must remain closed for now.
• Restaurants are encouraged to use technology to create an experience that is as contactless as possible (reservation systems, mobile ordering, mobile payment, etc.)
• Restaurants are encouraged to increase indoor ventilation however possible (such as by opening doors and windows).
• Restaurants should retain a phone number of someone in each party, whether for reservations or walk-in customers, for possible contact tracing.
• If an employee, customer, or vendor of a restaurant tests positive or is presumed to be positive for COVID-19, the restaurant must immediately shut down for at least 24 hours, cleaning and disinfecting in accordance with CDC guidelines before reopening.