Mayor Martin Walsh reminded owners that outdoor dining on private property was extended indefinitely without the need for further permits.
However, the city’s “Public Space” program expired last Tuesday. Restaurant owners in East Boston who tried to increase business by providing an outdoor dining option, started packing up their outdoor tables, chairs, heating lamps and barriers and rely solely on limited indoor dining throughout the winter months if they don’t have private space for outdoor dining. Other restaurants with limited space have decided to switch to strictly takeout for the time being.
The Public Space program allowed restaurants throughout Eastie to use city sidewalks, streets, parking lots and to set up tables, chairs and other amenities for outdoor dining.
“For restaurants, we have plans to continue our outdoor dining option,” said Walsh last week during a press conference. “The public space ended on December 1. But, outdoor dining may continue on private property indefinitely. In addition, we are working on an outdoor dining program for the spring.”
Over at The Quiet Few on Sumner Street last Tuesday, staff and patrons held a last hurrah before ending outdoor dining for the season.
“Tuesday night was bittersweet,” said owner Josh Weinstein. “This whole patio process has been an exhausting but wonderful exercise, and is a testament to the power of community and people. You, our guests, and our staff, made days where our outside kind of felt like inside, and with the aid of some delicious food and whiskey, we were able to forget about this whole COVID mess, if only for a little while, and safely enjoy each other’s company. A huge thank you to all that came and supported us and made that possible. And a huge thank you to our staff, that despite everything, came in every day with a positive attitude.”
Weinstein said The Quiet Few has transitioned to takeout.
“We will still offer food, to go cocktails, the best natural wine list in East Boston, and obviously smiles and virtual hugs,” he said.
Eastie and Boston’s restaurant industry has been hit particularly hard by the ongoing pandemic. Tough regulations for indoor dining and other restrictions imposed by the state during the latest COVID spike made the Public Space program a godsend for some.
To offer some relief the Walsh Administration launched the Public Space program last spring and allowed Eastie restaurants to use sidewalk space and the street on main thoroughfares to set up outdoor patios. The program was designed to help restaurants that dot the neighborhood increase their customer base because the number of patrons allowed inside were strictly limited due to COVID restrictions.
However, even with a rapid expansion of outdoor dining options in Eastie, some restaurants still fell victim to the pandemic and could not increase margins enough to justify staying open.
At the beginning of November, Jeveli’s in Day Square announced the restaurant would close for the winter. Eric Jeveli, owner of Eastie’s oldest Italian Restaurant that opened nearly a century ago in 1924, said COVID restrictions have made it nearly impossible to keep his restaurant afloat during the winter.
“We tried. There’s not enough customers to stay open right now,” Jeveli told the Globe in November. “It’s the whole COVID thing right now. I think everyone’s paranoid to come out.”
On September 15, the Boston Licensing Board issued an advisory regarding the extension of the City’s Temporary Outdoor Dining Program and the use of approved heaters.
The board ruled restaurants utilizing public sidewalks and parking lanes for outdoor dining may continue the approved use of those spaces until December 1, 2020.
However, the board said outdoor dining on private property will be extended for the duration of the COVID-19 related public health emergency.