Neighborhood restaurateur Babak Bina is looking forward to the summer, which, he expects, to bring an uptick in business for his and other restaurants throughout the city as more people are getting vaccinated.
“There’s a lot of optimism out there,” said Bina, who with his sister, Azita Bina-Seibel, owns and operates Bin 26 Enoteca on Charles Street, as well as jm Curley and its sister steakhouse, Bogie’s Place, in Downtown Crossing. “About 90 percent of our staff has been vaccinated with one shot at least.”
Management and staff are getting vaccinated at all of his locations, said Bina, to ensure that they, along with the restaurants’ patrons, remain safe.
“We feel within the next few weeks virtually every member of our staff, both in back and in front of house, will be vaccinated,” he said.
Despite all this progress, however, Bina said he and other restaurateurs are still eagerly awaiting the city and state to lift further restrictions on them.
“We’re expecting a good summer,” he said, “and we were hoping the state and city would lift the distance between tables, but that hasn’t occurred yet. But with the patio, especially at Bin 26, we are definitely are predicting a much better summer than last year.”
Moreover, Bina applauds the city’s Temporary Outdoor Dining Program, which has allowed Boston restaurants, like Bin 26, to use public sidewalks and parking spaces for additional outdoor dining space during the pandemic.
“I’m ecstatic that we can now all see that patios create life in beautiful or quaint neighborhoods like Beacon Hill and are of positive impact, rather than negative,” he said.
But in spite of the many advantages of outdoor dining, unpredictable New England weather can still sometimes make staffing patios a challenge for restaurant owners.
“The problem with the patio is it’s so dependent on the weather cooperating, but inside with four walls and a roof, your predictions don’t get affected by weather as much,” Bina said. “But when you’re relying on 75 percent of your income coming from the patio, and that is predicted by weather, it makes it hard to [anticipate] staffing and expenditures.”
Finding reliable staffing, said Bina, is another obstacle some restaurant owners are also now facing.
“There’s continually been a staff shortage for restaurants, but we predicted this and tried to prepare accordingly,” he said.
Meanwhile, one more indication of restaurants rebounding in the neighborhood, said Bina, is a new bistro called 1928 Beacon Hill opening soon at 97 Mt. Vernon St., in the former space of Lala Rokh, the popular Persian restaurant he and Bina-Seibel operated for more than two decades until its 2018 closure.
“Optimism is the most important thing currently, and we feel optimistic ourselves, and we’re also seeing that our guests coming in are optimistic both in the fact that they’re coming, and secondly, in the way they’re spending,” he said. “We’re looking forward to having a great summer, and in the fall, we can all go back to normal dining and socializing. There’s a light at end of tunnel, and we can see it.”