By Max Bowenemail@example.com
A proposal to close down a section of North Washington Street to allow for outdoor dining won’t be pursued, as it has been determined to be a significant cost and logistical challenge.
At Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, Town Manager Michael Borg said the idea was first looked at prior to the reopening of Massachusetts businesses. With so many restaurants on North Washington Street, the idea was to close part of the area to vehicles and allow for outdoor seating from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The town’s restaurants have been closed since mid-March and many have offered takeout as a means of getting by until normal service can resume.
“We understand restaurants had been badly hit,” said Borg.
However, a review of the plan and what would be required showed it to be cost-prohibitive. Expenses included police and fire department details for each evening, which Borg said may not be reimbursable through the CARES Act. Signed into law in the early days of the pandemic, the CARES Act provides federal reimbursement for necessary COVID-19-related expenses, such as cleaning supplies.
“Weather was an issue,” said Borg. “If it came in and downpoured, we’d own the cost of that and we didn’t want to pass the cost onto the businesses.”
Another concern with this proposal is fairness to other business owners. The plan only applied to those on North Washington Street, and Borg said those with restaurants elsewhere in town were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to take part. Borg said the closing of North Washington would also create a potential delay for first responders, as they’d need to be rerouted around that area.
“We all worked to see if it could happen,” said Borg. “As we went through process, it just became a behemoth of requirements that would become cost-prohibitive to the town.”
Several restaurants in town have opened their patio areas for outdoor dining, which is allowed under Phase 2 of the reopening plan. Bella Sarno, Box Seats, and Whisk and Paddle are among those already open, and Mad Moose Saloon is making plans to do the same. For those owners who also wish to offer this service, a set of forms have been created and posted to the town’s web site. These include outdoor dining on a sidewalk, in a parking lot, and a temporary license agreement. The building inspector, board of health, and police and fire departments are all involved in this process.
“We’d adopt that and work with the businesses,” said Borg.