WINCHESTER - Due to COVID-19, the town plans to bring outdoor dining back in the spring. According to Select Board Chair Michael Bettencourt, restaurant owners and residents have interest in outdoor dining.

“I’m looking forward to a robust spring,” he said about the prospect of bringing more business to Winchester’s eateries once the weather turns for the better.

Town Planner Brian Szekely said the town developed an application for outdoor dining and restaurant owners have three weeks to apply before the outdoor dining season begins on Thursday, April 1. However, he noted that some restaurants would like to open outdoors for St. Patrick’s Day (a notoriously busy day, especially for those establishments that serve Irish food).

With St. Patrick’s Day two weeks earlier, weather could be an issue (especially as it’s been a very cold winter so far). Bettencourt, though, said if there’s a lot of interest it would make sense to open for St. Patrick’s Day.

“It’s a good option to consider,” he advised his fellow board members. “It’s been a long winter for a lot of restaurants.”

Regardless of the exact open date for outdoor dining, Town Manager Lisa Wong said she would involve the Disability Access Commission in the outdoor dining process. Bettencourt agreed with that decision.

“It’s an evolving program and I’m glad we’re including the Disability Access Commission,” he acknowledged. “I’m glad we pumped the brakes on being prescriptive about the aesthetics.”

According to Wong, there won’t be a fee to apply. She also said the application would include a box for those wishing to open on St. Patrick’s Day.

It may not just be restaurants opening outdoors either, as Select Board member Mariano Goluboff suggested allowing retailers to bring their wares outdoors to sell. He suggested letting the Chamber of Commerce know.

“We should let retailers apply,” Szekely said. “No one took advantage last year. We could help with (the application process).”

Although the vaccine rollout continues, it’s unlikely the governor would allow large gatherings any time soon. Therefore, many restaurants will need to utilize outdoor dining this spring to bring in more customers.

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