Shrewsbury BOS approves process for outdoor dining expansion

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – Now that the town has entered Phase II of the state’s reopening process, many restaurants are beginning to reopen. However, only outdoor service is allowed and, in order to do this safely, there are protocols that need to be followed. As such, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a process pursuant to Governor Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 Order No. 35 at their June 9 meeting.

“Under the order, if restaurants have adequate space then they can expand to outdoor dining with certain restrictions. There are a bunch of regulations and such that have to be met and there isn’t a public hearing process that the restaurant owners would have to go through, it just comes before the Board,” explained Board chair Moe DePalo.

There is only one application form and the fee for the application will be waived. The process is expected to go quickly so that restaurants can get their operations up and running.

Town Manager Kevin Mizikar noted that “The goal of the process is to reopen economic activity and not to regulate a long-term situation.”

The question of who would be responsible for making sure that the restaurants are in compliance with ADA accessibility was raised by Selectman Beth Casavant.

Mizikar replied that those issues could be handled either by review of the building inspector or the Town Manager’s office since they are coordinating the applications.

Alexandria Martinez, assistant to the town manager, shared in an email after the board meeting that if a restaurant were to merely set tables out in front of their restaurant that they must first apply for and receive the license from the Board of Selectmen.

“A tent permit is required if they are putting a tent up, but there are no additional zoning requirements for the temporary extension of premises. The Planning Department will be reviewing the site plans that are submitted, and an in-person inspection will be conducted,” she added.

When asked if a restaurant would be penalized by “jumping the gun so to speak” Martinez replied, “We began reaching out to licensed establishments prior to Phase II to make them aware that the Town would be establishing a process subject to state guidance. We are working with the restaurants to educate and notify them of the guidelines and application requirements, and do not intend to penalize them.”

Locally, on June 10, Burtons Grill & Bar patio in the Lakeway Commons was already in full swing over the lunch hour while Tavern in the Square was putting finishing touches on their reopening later in the day. Both already had dedicated outdoor dining space so additional licensing was unnecessary.

Stephanie Pepler, Tavern in the Square’s general manager, noted that the health inspector reviewed their plans and layout and that they were “good to go.”

“Whenever they identify when we can move to the next phase we have all of our Plexiglas between our booths and we have a lay-out for all of our tables to ensure the six-foot distancing,” she remarked.

Across town, Christo Baltas, owner of Dean Park Grill & Pizza, 749 Main St., reported that they continue to offer their curbside service.

“We would love to offer outdoor dining. We just don’t have the room and we are so close to the road that it wouldn’t be safe,” he said.

An information session for restaurant owners and managers will be held Thursday, June 11, 10 – 11 a.m. Board meetings have been scheduled within the next week to fast-track applications.

For more information, visit: https://shrewsburyma.gov/925/Restaurant-Temporary-Outdoor-Seating-Lic.