Hingham restaurants have option to extend alfresco dining service until Spring 2023: ‘This has been a major benefit’

Photo courtesy of the Hingham Town Center Association

April 6, 2022 By Carol Britton Meyer

Al fresco dining under the expedited permit process put in place by Governor Charlie Baker in 2020 during the COVID-19 state of emergency has been a great success, benefiting both the community and the restaurants .

That option was due to expire on April 1, but on the same day the governor extended the expiration date until the spring of next year, according to city real estate adviser Susan Murphy.

This week, the council approved the change to the “City of Hingham’s Temporary COVID-19 Policy Regarding Restaurant Alfresco Dining Service” in its entirety and also amended OTS approvals granted to a dozen restaurants in extending their expiration dates to April 1, 2023.

“This executive order allowed restaurants that weren’t allowed to eat outdoors to offer it as a way to keep them afloat. [with Select Board approval]”Murphy said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “This option has been very popular with restaurateurs and the public alike.

William Ramsey, a board member, called OTS permission in this process “most important. Customers like to eat outside on a hot summer night, and alfresco dining at the center -town of Hingham have improved its atmosphere”, as well as the OTS in other parts of the town. “It’s really successful.”

The expedited permit process allowed restaurants — subject to local approval — to offer alfresco dining on sidewalks and parking lots in some cases and on their own property in others.

With the passage of recent state legislation, the Hingham Select Board has updated its own policy to reflect current state law.

The vote, however, stipulated that if the Legislature extends the expiration date, the city’s resolution date shall also be extended to the same date unless the select committee, in its discretion, sets an earlier expiration date, subject to certain conditions.

The idea is that once the expedited permit process expires once and for all, restaurants have the option to go to town to allow councils to apply for permission to offer outdoor dining in as part of the normal process.

Square Cafe has already obtained permanent approval to continue its outdoor dining option, and Locales Tacos & Tequila is also seeking the necessary approvals that would allow permanent OTS at their Crow Point Lane location.

The Select Board has voted to extend the expiration date to April 1, 2023 for the following restaurants that have applied for and been granted permission for outdoor dining service during COVID-19 under the expedited process, if they wish – subject to any applicable septic tank regulations for businesses to ensure that under Title 5 their system is able to accommodate both indoor dining that does not were not permitted when this option was first offered and al fresco dining:

99 Restaurant and pub; Alma Nové; Boat House Bistro; Burton grill; Legal C Bar, Local Tacos & Tequila; South Shore Sports Center; Range; The Snug, Tosca, Vida Mexicana and Wahlburgers. Legal C, Burtons, South Shore Sports Center, the Range, and Vida Mexicana all have septic tanks.

Any restaurant receiving an extension for OTS would be required to operate under its current outdoor dining plan. Any request for modification must be submitted to the select committee, and any extension is subject to adjustments by the committee if its members deem it necessary, including any parking problem or neighborhood problem.

Chairman Joseph Fisher said the feedback he’s heard from the public about the OTS has been positive. “Maybe we could hold some of our board meetings at a [nearby] downtown restaurant,” he joked, to which city administrator Tom Mayo replied, “Then we should go to all of them!

While grateful that the alfresco dining option period has been extended, Ramsey stressed that it was only for one year. “I don’t think it will happen again,” he said. “I encourage any restaurant owner who is considering applying for permission to offer a permanent OTS for use this year to contact the city’s permitting staff to start the process and not wait until March 2023 to do so. They are particularly friendly for these requests.”

When questioned, Police Chief David Jones said there were no police-related or fire-related public safety issues related to outdoor dining that he was aware of.

Fisher wished all of these restaurants good luck and said he hopes they “all do well. I look forward to [outdoor dining] the.”

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