As City Councilor Kenzie Bok sees it, Mayor Martin Walsh’s decision Tuesday to extend the outdoor dining season by one month could not only provide much-needed relief for struggling restaurants, but also potentially pave the way for more outdoor socializing in the city year-round.
“I think we have to totally transform our thinking and have a four-season outdoor Boston this year – both for our restaurants and bars and also for us as people,” Councilor Bok said. “There are lots of place round the world – from ski towns to cities in Germany – where people have normalized being outside and socializing, and we’re New Englanders, so we know there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”
Mayor Walsh announced Tuesday that he would extend the outdoor dining season, originally set to expire on Oct. 31, until Dec. 1 to provide further relief for restaurants during the pandemic. Restaurants participating in the Temporary Outdoor Dining Program may also continue to use public sidewalks and parking spaces for that purpose during this time, and the city will consider extending it beyond Dec. 1 for restaurants on a case-by-case basis.
“Restaurants in our neighborhoods represent our culture, community and innovation,” Mayor Walsh said in a press release. “Restaurants have faced incredible challenges during this ongoing public health crisis, and the City of Boston is committed to helping them survive and succeed, including by giving restaurants more flexibility around outdoor dining.”
Councilor Bok believes extending this year’s outdoor dining season would also give restaurants a leg up for the next one.
“One of the reasons why we should make plans for outdoor dining now is so restaurants can prepare for what will happen on the other side of winter…and make investments in the things that make outdoor dining more pleasant, like heaters, blankets and awnings,” Councilor Bok said.
Babak Bina, who, with his sister, Azita Bina-Seibel, owns and operates Bin 26 Enoteca on Charles Street, which began offering outdoor dining in July, wrote: “Outdoor seating has helped some restaurants dramatically so the decision by the Mayor will be very helpful. We now need Mother Nature to come on board!”
A pair of longtime Charles Street merchants, Jim and Jennifer, the owners of Blackstone’s of Beacon Hill, also applauded Mayor Walsh for extending the outdoor dining season, which they believe could potentially provide struggling restaurants with a crucial “lifeline,” especially with winter fast approaching.
“No business can endure extended capacity constraints like the City has asked of restaurants without extreme financial strain, to the point of bankruptcy,” the Hills wrote in an email. “Closing forever is on the minds of many restaurant owners under current restraints, and severe limits are unsustainable going into the winter. It is a cruel reality for the preservation of public health.”
Moreover, the Hills added: “The Mayor’s decision (Bravo!) to extend the outdoor dining is very appreciated. It’s a lifeline to survival, not only of their trade, but also the vitality of main streets in Boston. After the shops close for the evening, dining keeps our streets alive and our community engaged in the health of the neighborhood. We hope every neighbor gets out and supports their favorite eatery, right now, don’t wait. Their survival depends on our help.”