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Temporary outdoor extension of licensed premise guidance and application

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Licensing Board

The Licensing Board, working with other departments for the City of Boston, has taken steps to streamline existing processes and remove outdated restrictions on small businesses and restaurants.

You can find information about how to apply for a temporary outdoor extension, and also view a list of restaurants with outdoor dining below:

Restaurant questionnaires

Initial questionnaire

This initial questionnaire regarding a proposed temporary extension of the licensed premise onto outdoor space will collect information from the licensee to determine whether the proposed extension onto private property, public property, or both, is feasible. A licensed premise is defined as a premise licensed by the Licensing Board for the City of Boston holding a valid Common Victualler or Alcoholic Beverage License.

    Next steps and second questionnaire

    Extensions into the public way, whether sidewalks or streets, require evaluation by multiple departments to confirm doing so can be done while ensuring the safety of patrons and employees. Upon the initial review of the questionnaire, the Licensing Board will reach out by email to licensees regarding the next steps, which may include completing a second questionnaire. The second questionnaire will require the licensee to submit the following:

    1. Site Plan 
    2. Health, Safety, and Operations Plan
    3. Manufacturer's cut sheet and/or photographs of desired barriers
    4. Copy of the Certificate of Inspection
    5. Proof of legal right to occupy (private spaces)
    6. Recent photographs of the proposed extension space

    Any approval will be made on a temporary, non-precedent setting basis due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Any Licensee granted a temporary extension must abide by all rules, regulations, laws, advisories, and guidelines issued by the City, state, and federal government, including all social distancing requirements. All of the foregoing may be amended by the respective agencies at any time

    Common questions

    Questions
    How long is the temporary outdoor seating going to be allowed?

    Outdoor dining on public property is permitted until December 1, 2020 (weather permitting). Outdoor dining on private property is permitted indefinitely for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Read the Advisory.  Please note: This is on a non-precedent setting basis due to COVID-19. If permitted next year for 2021, the application process will change. More information will be forthcoming.

    Can I still submit an application for the outdoor seating? When is the cut-off?

    Yes, these applications are reviewed and issued a decision in the order they are received. There is no cut-off date at this time.

    What is the turnaround time before I am approved?

    When you submit your initial questionnaire, a team of reviewers will determine whether the sidewalk or the parking lane may be feasible.  This may take 3-5 days.

    If you are determined to have a viable outdoor extension option, you will receive an email with a link to the secondary questionnaire to fill out more detailed questions and submit supporting documents such as a site plan. There is a different secondary questionnaire for public and one for private. Please note: The process for a temporary extension on private property can typically be reviewed and approved more quickly than on public property. This is due to the potential public safety and accessibility issues on public property. 

    Who do I contact to see if a place is permitted to have outdoor seating?

    There is a list of approved licensed premises with outdoor seating. It is updated frequently. You may also email LicensingBoard@boston.gov.

    I would like to request an extension on private and public property? How do I go about doing that?

    You will need to complete the initial questionnaire, one for private and one for the public extension. Upon review, you may receive a second questionnaire for each type of application if the extension is feasible.

    What happens if my initial questionnaire determined that neither the sidewalk or the parking lane is feasible?

    The Board will suggest that you find a non-contiguous space which you can apply for through the Special One-day application. There is no fee for this application for the temporary outdoor extension with the exception of Beer Gardens with capacities over 150 persons.

    Where can I submit a complaint?

    You may submit a complaint through the Mayor's 311 Hotline.

    How do I get "no parking" signs for my approved parking lane extension?

    If you are approved for the parking lane, you may contact your neighborhood liaison to obtain the "no parking" signs for your extension.

    Who is enforcing the rules of the outdoor seating?

    The Licensing Board, with the assistance of the Boston Police, Transportation Department (BTD) , Health Department, and the Public Improvement Commission (PIC), are enforcing the rules on outdoor seating. All restaurants with outdoor seating (approved and non-approved) will have on-site inspections throughout the extension period.

    Those with immediate public safety hazards will be asked to cease operations immediately until the public safety concern has been rectified. Issues that are not considered a public safety hazard will be given 48 hours to rectify the issue. Licensees must submit a photograph of their activated site with barriers and furniture for review by the Licensing Board and other City departments in order to receive final approval for the requested extension space.

    What are the hours of operation? 
    • Sunday through Thursday : 10 p.m. (Patrons out by 10:30 p.m.)
    • Friday through Saturday : 11 p.m. (Patrons out by 11:30 p.m.)
    Does the City have barriers that we can use?

    No, the city is not providing barriers at this time. The barriers in the North End are being collected as they were dispersed temporarily to help correct the many violations of barrier requirements.

    Does the City have ADA compliant accessible ramps that we can use?

    Please reach out to the Disabilities Commission. Alternatively, you may fill out this form.

    What is the policy on masks?

    All licensed premise staff must wear masks at all times. Face shields are not sufficient, per Health guidelines. Patrons must wear masks until they have been seated for service.

    Can we play music?

    Entertainment of any sort is not permitted on temporary outdoor extensions at this time. This may be revisited in the future. Licensed premises who hold an annual entertainment license that permits entertainment on the patio are permitted entertainment. 

    Licensed premises who hold an annual entertainment license for inside the establishment may have background music indoors only. Live entertainment (for example, dancing, DJ, karaoke, and trivia) is not permitted at this time. Read more about the Advisories issued by the Board.

    How far do the tables have to be?

    Tables must be at least six feet apart measured from table to table (not chairs), per State guidelines.

    How many customers can I have at each table?

    A maximum of six patrons per table is permitted in Boston.

    I already have a patio. Do I still need to apply for this license?

    If you have been approved for a patio, you will not need to apply for this temporary extension. However, if you would like to expand your existing patio further or use other spaces that have not been approved by the Board, then you will need to apply.

    How much does this permit cost?

    There is no fee for the extension with the exception of Beer Gardens with capacities over 150 persons.

    Can I serve alcohol on my approved extension?

    If you currently hold a license to sell beer, wine, malts, or liquor then yes, you may serve this on your contiguous extension. However, if your extension is non-contiguous, with the approval of the Special One-day permits, you may only serve beer and malt beverages.

    What does a "contiguous" extension mean?

    Contiguous is defined as land adjoining or touching by common corner or otherwise.

    If I am requesting an extension across the street, is that allowed?

    It may be permitted with the approval of the reviewer team. However, spaces across from the licensed premise is considered non-contiguous and would require a Special One Day permit.

    Can a Retail package malt and wine grocery store apply for outdoor extension?

    No, they may not.

    Can we use couches on our outdoor extension?

    Couches are not permitted.

    Do we have to serve food?

    If a Licensee seeks to open as part of Phase 3, Step 1 for outdoor and indoor dining pursuant to social distancing and operational requirements food must be available to patrons. It is the Licensee's responsibility to ensure that an adequate amount of food is available to patrons at all times. Any Licensee that runs out of food must cease operations unless and until it can resume food offerings. The licensee must have a Common Victualler's license.  Food offerings must consist of more than simply prepackaged snack foods such as chips or candy. Licensees who do not have a Common Victualler (CV) license (food serving permit) will be granted a temporary CV. It is the responsibility of the licensed premises to obtain the temporary CV from the Licensing Board.

    Can we use HEATERS ON THE OUTDOOR PATIOS?

    Heaters may be allowed on outdoor patios with approval from the Boston Fire Department with a Temporary Heater Permit. A permit is required for both private and public property. Applicants may apply on the Fire Prevention permitting portal. Click here to see how you can apply. Once the application intake and special hazard review are approved, an inspector from the Special Hazards Unit will conduct a site visit. All permits applied for online will be paid for online and the customer will be able to print their permit.  

    There will be no storing of propane permitted inside any buildings. Propane cylinders may not be stored in the temporary heaters overnight. Temporary heaters must be stored away properly and locked together in a safe area of the property which has been approved by the Boston Fire Department's Special Hazard Unit.

    This is the list of requirements needed to apply correctly:

    • The number of heaters, propane cylinders, and size of the cylinder (maximum size of cylinder 20 pounds, for example, same-size propane tank used for outdoor grills).
    • Attach the specification (spec) sheets of the heater and the spec sheet for the approved propane storage cage, cabinet, or locker, that will be used onsite.
    • Need to have a steel propane cage, cabinet, or locker that locks to store the propane when the heaters are not being used.
    • Attach a site plan showing the patio layout with the location of where the temporary heaters and where the storage cage will be located.

    Note: Hard-piping is not permitted if heaters are located on public property, such as the sidewalk or a parking lane. They would need to be movable tanks. In addition, fuel tanks may not be stored overnight on public property. Fuel tanks cannot block any door or egress.

    If you have any other questions or concerns, you can reach out to Fire Department's Special Hazards Unit at 617-343-3447 or email:

    Electric Heaters: You may use electric heaters without a permit from the City. The City is temporarily allowing one cord to run across the public realm (ex. sidewalk) with the following conditions: 

    • Covered by sturdy plastic casings
    • Secured firmly to the ground (no drilling or other surface penetrations)
    • High visibility / high contrast in color
    • Low profile in height
    • Cords and covers shall be removed from the sidewalk when the seating is not in use
    • No more than one cord crossing the sidewalk per restaurant - An extension cord may be used in the dining area to allow for more electric heaters. Cords must be safely secured to prevent patrons from tripping.
    ARE ANIMALS ALLOWEd on THE PATIOS?

    Animals are not permitted on the outdoor extensions per health code and state law, with the exception of certified service dogs for persons with disabilities (physical or sensory). Emotional support dogs are NOT permitted on the patio. Generally, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless such devices interfere with the animal's work or the customer's disability. Restaurant staff may ask if a dog is used for a disability and will have to trust the patron's word.

    Are bar seats permitted?

    Bar seating is not permitted, as there cannot be a six-foot distance between the patron and bartender. However, licensed premises may add an extension (table) that allows for six feet between the patron and bartender. These additional seats must abide by the capacity listed on the Certificate of Inspection.

    Is entertainment permitted?

    Licensed premises who hold an annual entertainment license for inside the establishment may have background music indoors only. Live entertainment (for example, dancing, DJ, karaoke, and trivia) is not permitted at this time. An Advisory will be issued shortly on this matter.

    What are the hours of operations?

    The indoor hours of operations are the hours that are listed on your Licensing Board license (for example, Common Victualler, Alcohol Beverage, and Entertainment).

    Map of open restaurants

    Restaurants with outdoor dining