Everett restaurants and eateries could be up and running outdoors by the end of this week, said City officials who have been working long hours to prepare regulations for opening safely under Phase II – which became official on Monday, June 8.
Planning Director Tony Sousa said that although they had a lukewarm response to such ideas a year ago when they put out the feelers on outdoor dining in the downtown and business corridors, this time around they are getting a huge response and one that they hope will last beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re getting a tremendous amount of response from restaurants and eateries in the City on outdoor dining,” said Sousa. “We’ve had 20 inquiries and a dozen applications we’re reviewing now. By the end of Tuesday, we expect half of those applicants to be permitted and ready to go. This is a tremendous opportunity for restaurants and eateries…Prior to COVID-19, we saw it as an opportunity – and it was always the Mayor’s vision – to elevate the streetscape and support small businesses and create more appeal in Everett Square and other areas.”
Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Saturday, June 6, that outdoor dining could move forward on June 8 – which set about a scramble for many establishments to try to get operating in some fashion beyond take-out. For some who didn’t do take-out, it was a chance to re-open in a small fashion. Inside dining is still not allowed and it is uncertain when that restriction will be lifted.
For the time being, Everett is working on being creative in how the opening is approached and getting things moving as soon as possible. Already, last week, Sousa and City Attorney Keith Slattery began working on the application and reaching out to restaurants and eateries to see if they would be interested – or ready – to open this week. Some of the ideas they are using are eating more on the sidewalks, using parking spaces with parklets on them, closing off parts of parking lots, or blocking some small streets on certain hours. All of it is to start the ball rolling to help the businesses get back on their feet sooner rather than later.
“This is a starting point of getting the businesses back up and running,” said Slattery. “All the restaurants have done a great job and have been resilient. This is one way we can support them in these tough times.”
Right now, leading the way for opening are Ferry Street Grill, Village Bar & Grill and Texas Roadhouse. Many of the breweries and distilleries were hoping to be part of the opening, but were ruled out by the state this week.
Meanwhile, other establishments like the 8/10 Bar & Grill is taking a slower approach and isn’t quite ready to open to patrons – preferring to continue with take-out until there is more latitude. The Square Deli is hoping to open up in time an outdoor space behind their Everett Square location.
“One key thing is the partnerships between the City of Everett and the businesses is so strong we aren’t concerned about giving them the green light,” said Slattery.
Sousa said they are approaching other businesses as well that they think would be able to capitalize on the outdoor opening, including La Hacienda in Everett Square and others.
There are a number of protocols though for safety and well-being that have to be followed. The City’s ISD will be inspecting, and Public Health Nurse Sabrina Firicano is also part of the team that is looking at all the set-ups of establishments before and after they open. Restaurants on the sidewalks have to maintain the four feet passageway for disability access requirements, and there are strict sanitization protocols before and after anyone dines at an outdoor table.
However, despite the heavy protocols, it is a great first step for some – and a step that the City hopes will remain into the future beyond COVID-19 restrictions.
“This is a way to promote the vision the mayor has had for a long time,” said Sousa. “It’s making the best out of the situation and helping the businesses restore themselves and move forward.”