By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer
HUDSON — Some residents recently expressed concern to Hudson selectmen about the layout of outdoor dining on sidewalks.
Those concerns were shared by Select Board members Fred Lucy and Shawn Sadowski during a hearing during their meeting June 7.
Welly’s, which is located on Main Street, had applied for permission to occupy the sidewalk and for the alteration of premises for their all alcohol pouring license.
Sadowski asked if Welly’s could move their seating closer to the building they occupy.
“What happens now is anyone walking through comes walking through your restaurant and the outdoor seating, and they kind of interrupt everyone having dinner,” Sadowski said.
He added that he heard complaints from residents during his campaign that walking through the area was similar to an experience of walking through a restaurant and bumping into servers.
The outdoor seating was initially allowed to help restaurants stay alive during the pandemic, Sadowski said.
“Now, we have indoor seating. We’re at full capacity. We have no restrictions. There is no need, I don’t think, for this large of a dining area,” he continued.
Sadowski also said he would like to see Welly’s host stand moved closer to the restaurant door, “which keeps people off the roadway and off the crosswalk.”
Welly’s is not the only Hudson restaurant with outdoor seating. As Lucy noted, nearby establishments like Rail Trail Flatbread and the New City Microcreamery are also offering such amenities.
Currently, their outdoor seating is located on the sidewalk in front of two other shops.
Welly’s co-owner Wellington DePinho expressed concern about shoppers being able to enter nearby stores if the seating is moved and the potential of losing seating.
“I understand where you’re coming from, but for us to move to the other side, it will be impossible,” DePinho said.
Charles Randall, who owns the building, said it would be “impossible” to move the seating, noting that there are concrete flower boxes.
He said the current layout is similar to Welly’s layout last year, which he said was visited by town staff, including the employees of the Department of Public Works, the Health Department, the Fire Department and former Executive Assistant Tom Moses.
“It just seems to me like the path we’re on is a mistake,” Randall said.
Chair Scott Duplisea said, when the town first allowed outdoor dining, they were trying to help restaurants during the pandemic.
He agreed with Sadowski’s comment about walking through the outdoor seating, but he added that he liked seeing the smiling patrons at the restaurants.
Businesses are “doing everything they can to comply,” and town staff will respond if there are issues, Duplisea said.
Duplisea and Building Commissioner Jeffrey Wood said they hadn’t received any complaints.
“Everyone has concerns, and they’re more than welcome to speak them,” Duplisea said. “If they’re serious, then they should be dealt with, I agree. If we’re going to start nitpicking, I think we’re going down the wrong road.”
Lucy, who said that he received four complaints, said that while town staff can make sure their arrangements are accurate, the Select Board can set the standards.
“Everything that we did last year was temporary,” he said.
Lucy said the town had until at least mid-August to decide the liquor portion of Welly’s request.
Human Resource and Licensing Manager Fernanda Santos said Gov. Charlie Baker has filed legislation to extend outdoor dining through November. At the moment, though, restaurants are only able to operate through mid-August under the governor’s temporary order.
“We need to rethink the temporary standards for distance and turn them into permanent standards for distance that would be applicable for all the restaurants operating on town property,” Lucy said.
The next hearing discussing this topic will be before the Select Board on Monday, July 12.