Walsh announces streamlined reopening process to help Boston restaurants

BOSTON (WHDH) - Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced Thursday that the Boston Licensing Board has taken steps to streamline existing processes and remove outdated restrictions to help small businesses and allow restaurants to offer outdoor dining under the COVID-19 reopening process.

“We’ve said from the beginning that Boston’s reopening process must take a cautious approach that puts science and public health at the forefront of our discussions,” Walsh said. “It’s my hope that these updated protocols will help ensure proper social distancing, and give much-needed assistance to the small businesses that are the lifeblood of Boston’s neighborhoods.”

At its hearing, the board took the following actions, according to Walsh:

  • Voted to pass an emergency amendment to its General Rules codifying its existing administrative review of temporary extensions of licensed premise onto outdoor space using its existing One Day Amendment to Existing License Application;
  • Voted to administratively lift citywide the preexisting condition of “alcohol with food only” on outdoor space or any other similar condition that prohibits the sale and service of alcohol on outdoor space without the service of a food item;
  • The Board, Boston Transportation Department, Inspectional Services Department, Public Improvement Commission, and Public Works Department will waive fees for the approved use of outdoor space for this program, on both public and private property, on a temporary, non-precedent setting basis.

On Monday, the board issued a questionnaire for businesses that will be used as the starting point for both identifying opportunities for temporary extensions onto outdoor space both on public and private property. Extensions into the public way, whether sidewalks or streets, require evaluation by multiple departments to confirm doing so can be done while ensuring the safety of patrons and employees.

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Walsh said the goal is to be able to process and approve the temporary extensions administratively without requiring hearings, fees, or multiple applications going to multiple departments.

To date, 147 businesses have filled out the questionnaire across the city ranging from small restaurants and coffee shops in neighborhoods to restaurants downtown. The questionnaire is for businesses that have licenses from the board.

Walsh also announced that nearly $4 million in public and private debt-free grants have been distributed to just over 1,100 small businesses in every neighborhood.

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