Walsh Announces 2021 Outdoor Dining Pilot Program

Building on Boston’s ongoing commitment to supporting restaurants during COVID-19, Mayor Martin J. Walsh last week announced the launch of an outdoor dining pilot program for the 2021 season, making more permanent what was put together to temporarily help restaurants across the city survive through the summer months.

The 2021 Outdoor Dining Pilot Program will continue many of the successful initiatives from this year’s program, such as streamlined permitting and outdoor patios on roadways that enable restaurants with narrow sidewalks to offer patio seating to patrons, while offering new features based on community feedback. Applications for outdoor dining licenses on both public and private property are now open and can be accessed here: https://bostonopendata.knack.com/outdoor-dining#welcome. 

“I’m pleased to announce an outdoor dining pilot program for the 2021 season. This year we saw the benefits outdoor dining can have on our neighborhoods: vibrant streets, support for local businesses, a safe and enjoyable experience for restaurant goers, and, in many ways, a lifeline for our small businesses during this challenging time,” said Mayor Walsh. “We have appreciated the feedback from restaurants and residents, and look forward to their continued input as we develop a outdoor dining plan for next year that balances public health, our restaurants, and our residents.”

The 2021 Outdoor Dining Pilot Program season will begin on April 1, 2021, or earlier if weather permits, and will end on December 1, 2021, weather permitting. Restaurants who took part in the 2020 temporary outdoor dining program and who wish to do so in 2021 must re-apply. We will also be accepting applications from restaurants who did not take part in the 2020 temporary outdoor dining program. For the 2020 temporary outdoor dining season, the Licensing Board for the City of Boston approved more than 550 requests for outdoor dining licenses with over 415 on public property. Of the total approved outdoor spaces, applications from every single neighborhood in the City of Boston were represented.

The City has made a series of changes from the temporary 2020 program, based on feedback received from the public, including: 

•Moving the application process to another online platform where businesses can track the status of their applications for more transparency.

•Additional time built into the process, so that restaurants can procure proper materials and plan for operations that will include an outdoor dining space. 

 •Clear guidance for outdoor dining on public and private property that will be available in both English and Spanish, with other languages available upon request.

 •Consistent enforcement that will focus on ensuring licensees adhere to all requirements issued by the City to ensure outdoor dining is safe and enjoyable.

 •1:1 assistance for restaurant owners who require support and/or translation of the online application 

Recognizing that each neighborhood has its own opportunities and challenges for outdoor dining, the City is also working to address the specific needs of restaurants, residents, and visitors across neighborhoods.

There will also be virtual application help sessions available to assist restaurants in preparing and submitting their applications.

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