BURLINGTON - Though no vote was required, the Board of Selectmen publicly expressed its support for restaurants in town to continue to utilize outdoor seating in the winter.
On Sept. 10, Gov. Charlie Baker ordered outdoor dining to be extended for another 60 days after the state of emergency. Burlington’s Economic Task Force and the selectmen support the extension and any restaurant submitting requests for such an extension.
The town’s Economic Task Force is made up of representatives from the selectmen, Planning Board, Board of Health, Building Department, Chamber of Commerce, and the Police and Fire Departments. Any requests from restaurants have to go through the Economic Task Force and Town Administrator Paul Sagarino.
With all parties supporting Gov. Baker’s outdoor dining extension into next year, the selectmen inquired about how eating outside can be possible during the winter. Melisa Tintocalis, economic development director in Burlington, briefly mentioned several tentative ideas brainstormed by the task force, including allowing restaurants to install a 4-sided tent with heat blowing in from the fresh, outside air. Another idea calls for an igloo concept, which would see groups of patrons basically eating in their own enclosed space outside in a pop-up structure. Those eating inside such structures would continue to adhere to the 6-ft. separation guidelines.
Even with these introductory ideas, Tintocalis sees the business prospects this winter as far from ideal.
“There is a lot of consternation that restaurants are really going to struggle through the winter, given the difficulty of serving outside in the cold weather,” she remarked to the selectmen.
Tintocalis did confirm the Board of Health is “comfortable” with Gov. Baker’s 60-day outdoor dining extension, which includes allowing 10 people to sit at one table together, as long as they are part of the same group and remain 6-ft. apart from other tables. Granting permission for 10 people to sit at a table gave Selectmen Michael Runyan and Bob Hogan some hesitation.
“I do not have a problem supporting the outdoor seating extension, but I am not sure allowing 10 people to sit at a table is a good idea,” advised Selectman Runyan. “I do not want to open Pandora’s Box.”
Tintocalis and Sagarino stated they will review the 10-people seating arrangements and try to “tighten up” the seating capacity number.
Selectmen Chair Joseph Morandi echoed the general sentiment of the board in regards to them doing anything they can to help restaurants in Burlington.
“Whatever it takes to get these businesses the help they need and back on track, that is what I feel needs to be done,” avowed Chair Morandi. “There is not much of a difference between sitting in a tent and a building.”
No vote was needed to formalize Gov. Baker’s outdoor dining extension, but the discussion was rather a reinforcement of the town continuing to follow the governor’s orders as they come, which is what the town has done since COVID-19 began wreaking havoc in Massachusetts.