Outdoor Seating on Private Property Extended, Public Space Program Ends

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 Tuesday. Restaurant owners in Jamaica Plain trying to increase business by providing an outdoor dining option will now have to start 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.

     The Public Space program allowed restaurants throughout Jamaica Plain  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.”

     Jamaica Plain  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 Back Bay restaurants to use sidewalk space and the street on main thoroughfares like Centre Street 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 Jamaica Plain, some restaurants still fell victim to the pandemic and could not increase margins enough to justify staying open.

     In August the Frogmore on Centre Street closed after five years. Led by Chef Jason Albus, a South Carolina native, Frogmore served up southern ‘Lowcountry’ cuisine like fried chicken, catfish and Hoppin-Johns. For five years the restaurant came to depend on a busy bar scene and weekend brunches.

     “Don’t be sad,” the restaurant team said in a social media post announcing its closure. “We had five great years.”

     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.

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