As restaurants throughout the City have the green light from the state to begin using indoor spaces to serve, the popularity and creativity for outdoor dining spaces has picked up to an even greater degree.
It seems counterintuitive, but City officials and some establishments in Everett indicated they have had tremendous response from patrons to their outdoor dining options, and there is also some speculation that not all patrons will be comfortable inside eating – though they might take a stab at summer dining outside.
There is also the case of regulations, which severely impact the numbers of tables inside that a restaurant can use – slashing indoor capacity by 50 percent in some cases. To make up for that, restaurant owners and the City of Everett have turned to being creative in order to “recover tables” lost inside at the outdoor space.
“We’re up to close to 15 establishments that are already doing it or looking to do outdoor dining and we expect that number to grow,” said Tony Sousa, planning director. “We do expect there will be more restaurants and eateries participating. Now that indoor dining is allowed, we believe there will be more. It’s another option for businesses to have outdoor dining. Many of the guidelines for COVID-19 inside limit space and tables, so having outside also is helpful. For the diner’s perspective, having the outdoor option is very important for safety and comfort.”
To that end, the City has begun partnering with restaurants and eateries and cafes to build extra space on sidewalks, in City parking lots, on parking spaces and on sidewalks. It has been a whirlwind of work whereby the City’s Facilities Department has used experience from building a parklet dining area last summer to create even more on a much faster pace – including in the municipal parking lot for La Hacienda, and outside of Bakes and Cakes on Norwood Street.
They also expect to be working with Taco El Paso, the 8/10, Oliveira’s, Stewarts Pub, and Square Deli. Pretty much any business that asks for help will get a consideration. Already, on private property, Ferry Street Grill, Texas Roadhouse, TGI Fridays, Bone Up Brewery, Village Bar & Grill, and Night Shift Brewery have entered into the outdoor realm with great success.
At Village and Bone Up, on the parking lot there is a beer garden on one side, which is separated from a larger tent for food service from Village.
Bone Up owners Jared and Liz Kiraly said they opened outdoor on Weds., June 17, and it was a quick success.
“It has started off fantastic,” she said. “It was definitely great to be open. To go sales treated us well, but that is not what our brewery is built for. The last four months have been life-changing. Everything is going well so far. We’ve been on a wait list and we’re doing first come first served.”
The beer garden aspect is something she said they have really liked and hope that it can stay all summer – maybe even next summer. While they will re-open the inside, they said they are having a good response from customers.
“A lot of people are really happy to be outside again and be able to do something fun. There have been a lot of really bored people sitting at home.”
At Village – another early outdoor dining location – the tent next to Bone Up has been extremely popular and attracting several diners for lunch and dinner.
And the City believes outdoor dining – even if right now it’s by necessity – is here to stay in Everett.
“The mayor sees the opportunity here and doesn’t want it to pass without doing this,” said Tom Philbin, a spokesman for the mayor. “I think he understands it’s time to seize the moment and it’s here to stay.”
Said Sousa, “Outdoor dining is here to stay. It’s an opportunity, a real placemaking and activation that isn’t going away.”
To that end, the name of the game is moving fast on behalf of the restaurants.
After a hiccup with the License Commission a few weeks ago in approving the first batch of outdoor dining establishments, the Commission and the mayor agreed to turn over approval process as an administrative process. That means anyone applying who has their plan in order and insurance/liability in place will be approved by Sousa or the Planning Department, and they are moving quickly.
“When it’s a simple extension or expansion of an existing license, we agreed to allow that all to be made at an administrative level,” he said. “The only exception is if there is a special permit required or if there are any complaints, the License Commission would retain that. Instead of having the License Commission meet one time a week, we’ll do it administratively. Already it’s helped to streamline it and move faster and turn these around in 24 hours – even on the weekends.”