In this post COVID-19 pandemic surge not all restaurants in Jamaica Plain are created equal.
On Wednesday, Mayor Martin Walsh said restaurants that have been forced to switch to a take-out or delivery model during the COVID-19 shutdown can slowly begin dine-in service following the state’s Phase II reopening plan.
However, there is a catch.
Jamaica Plain restaurant owners can only reopen with a limited amount of patrons designated to ‘outdoor’ seating areas.
To help increase outdoor capacity for some Jamaica Plain restaurants, Walsh and the City of Boston Licensing Board are allowing for a temporary, non-precedent setting initiative to allow for expanded use of public spaces for outdoor dining.
Walsh said new outdoor dining spaces are moving forward this week like Blue Nile Restaurant at 389 Centre St., Jamaica Plain.
“Boston is committed to a safe, phased reopening process,” said Walsh. “That includes helping our small businesses open safely and successfully, and we’ve been working wherever we can to remove barriers and provide new opportunities. The restaurant industry has been incredibly impacted by this global pandemic, and we’ve made helping the small businesses that make our neighborhoods and city so special a priority during this time.”
With some restaurants already equipped with outdoor dining, other establishments without outdoor dining options had to wait until they received an outdoor dining permit.
The City received close to 500 requests for temporary extension onto outdoor space, and already more than 200 businesses have received full or conditional approval to expand their outdoor space to serve patrons.
The Licensing Board is also actively issuing approvals for temporary extensions on private and public property, and applications will continue to be reviewed and approved on a rolling basis.
If restaurants have applied and received approval, they can begin outdoor service on their property, or in the public parking spaces outside their establishment immediately. Those outdoor spaces can remain open until 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends.
According to the reopening guidelines the Baker-Polito administration announced on May 29, the following applies to restaurants that are reopening in Boston;
• Once indoor dining does resume later in phase two, restaurants that can, will be encouraged to continue focusing on outdoor dining as much as possible.
• Tables must be six feet apart and six feet away from high-traffic areas, like routes to the restrooms. The distance can be under six feet only if separated by non-porous barriers such as walls or plexiglass dividers that are at least six feet high.
• Both employees and customers should maintain a six-foot distance from others as much as possible (not congregating in break rooms or near restrooms, for example), and restaurants should post signage, use distance markers, etc. to enforce this.
• No more than six people can sit at a table together.
• Customers cannot sit at bars, although restaurants can reconfigure their bar areas into standard dining areas as long as existing building and fire code regulations are followed, along with COVID-19 safety guidelines regarding spacing.
• Along the same lines, customers cannot be served standing up (no bars, standing counters, etc.).
• Masks are required for both staff and customers, although customers can remove theirs when seated at a table.
• Condiments won’t be preset on tables and will instead be served upon request in single-serving containers. Likewise, utensils won’t be preset and must either be single-use or sanitized after each use, brought to the table rolled or otherwise packaged.
• Menus must either be single-use, disposable paper; a display, such as a whiteboard or chalkboard; or electronic and viewed on customers’ own mobile devices.
• Communal serving areas (such as unattended buffets, topping bars, and self-service stations) must remain closed for now.
• Restaurant areas not directly related to food and beverage service — such as dance floors and pool tables — must remain closed for now.
• Restaurants are encouraged to use technology to create an experience that is as contactless as possible (reservation systems, mobile ordering, mobile payment, etc.)
• Restaurants are encouraged to increase indoor ventilation however possible (such as by opening doors and windows).
• Restaurants should retain a phone number of someone in each party, whether for reservations or walk-in customers, for possible contact tracing.
• If an employee, customer, or vendor of a restaurant tests positive or is presumed to be positive for COVID-19, the restaurant must immediately shut down for at least 24 hours, cleaning and disinfecting in accordance with CDC guidelines before reopening