Hey, there! Log in / Register

Heaters won't keep outdoor diners in the North End warm, one restaurant owner says - but city won't allow tents on the neighborhood's narrow streets

Damien DiPaola

DiPaola talks heaters, tents along Hanover Street.

For the second time since the start of the pandemic, the Boston Licensing Board called in North End restaurant owners to urge them to do a better job breaking up lines of hungry people and ensuring their workers wear their masks properly.

But in a Zoomed hearing this afternoon, the board also laid out requirements for restaurants to add heaters to their expanded patio spaces along sidewalks and in parking spaces as the city expands patio season through December: Propane heaters need Fire Department approval - although the city will waive the $150 inspection fee - while electric heaters do not, but wires for electric heaters can't be run across sidewalks. Also, if a snowstorm is on the way, the city will give restaurants two days to remove all their seats and tables to let snowplows get through.

Damien DiPaola, owner of Carmelina's on Hanover Street, however, said all those fancy heaters are "purely esthetic" without some way to retain their heat around diners at individual tables.

"All this conversation is great, but we're not keeping people warm in November and on October nights," he said.

The problem: The city won't allow tents on the patios that sit on public ways, including sidewalks, not because the city doesn't trust owners to buy tents made of fireproof canvas, but because on the neighborhood's narrow streets, they just would cause too many "sight line" issues for firefighters and others trying to drive down the streets. A Fire Department official said that this summer, firefighters had problems even with the umbrellas that many restaurants put up, because they were worried they might catch them on their trucks as they went by, sending them flying.

Board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce said the board did get an application today from one restaurant for a possible alternative: Clear plexiglass boards attached to the barriers around the patio, with individual clear partitions between tables. She said the board is still reviewing that idea.

DiPaola said there has to be an answer and pointed to northern Europe, where restaurants have been offering cold-weather outdoor dining for years. Joyce asked for a bit of patience because while it's true some European countries have figured it out, late-season outdoor dining is a new concept in Boston, driven by the Covid-19 crisis.

Warren Mustacchio, of BenCotto on Hanover Street, questioned why the city was so opposed to tents when it has always allowed them during weekend fests along the street.

Board Executive Secretary Lesley Delaney Hawkins replied that the key difference is that streets are closed for festivals, so there's no issue with vehicular traffic during them.

DiPaola in turn replied to that: "Wouldn't winter be the perfect time to close off Hanover Street?" That would allow for tents to keep diners toasty while eliminating the sight-line problems, which would help keep restaurants open and even mean some extra meals-tax money for the city and state.

John Romano, Mayor Walsh's North End liaison, said his office and BTD are continuing to look at ways to shut Hanover and Salem streets, but that they keep running into the same public-safety concerns; for example, that the neighborhood fire station is itself on Hanover Street.

Dan Manning, assistant director at ISD, said they city really wants to do what it can to encourage outdoor dining, if only for health reasons: While the city experienced only one or two Covid-19 cases related to restaurants in the early part of the pandemic, when only takeout and delivery was allowed, there "has been an uptick" in restaurant-related cases since the state and city allowed the limited resumption of indoor dining.

Neighborhoods: 
Topics: 

Ad:

Do you like how UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

Am I just missing something in the logic - wouldn't tents be about the same as being indoors in terms of COVID transmission? Is the outdoor expansion just to get seat numbers back due to the larger spacing? I though it was more about being a safer environment to congregate.

up
Voting closed 15

But rather one tent for each table. But I stand to be corrected.

up
Voting closed 5

grendel's in hvd square has many individual tents.

up
Voting closed 6

Tents are Fire hazzards especially when there are propane heaters inside of them.

up
Voting closed 13

How is dining in a tent a lesser risk of getting Covid then dining inside a room?

Anyone know what outdoor dining in the winter in Northern Italy like? I tried googling images but only got pics of diners who are not wearing coats. Unless the Italians are a much more heartier people than us, I'm guessing those are not pics of Northern Italy in the winter.

Now I want Italian for dinner.

up
Voting closed 28

How is dining in a tent a lesser risk of getting Covid then dining inside a room?

You got me. I've seen some enclosed tents out here in the burbs and have asked the same question.

up
Voting closed 15

Every town making up their own rules is part of the problem. It leads people to stop trusting the authorities. (Or even agreeing what constitutes an authority.)

Ultimately, this is a complete failure of the federal government in every way possible. Trump making it a political matter has probably cost more lives than anything else.

But since the Feds have fucked up, Massachusetts should stick with clear state guidelines that are the same across the Commonwealth. If outdoor dining in enclosed tents is OK in Concord, it should be OK in Boston. (And vice versa.) And if movie theaters are OK in Malden, they should be OK in Somerville.

I know towns have the right to make their own rules, but it's foolish to have 100 different standards across Massachusetts. At least the rules should be based on something quantitive, such as the number of active cases. But even this is questionable in a state where towns are tiny and most people transverse several different municipalities each day.

up
Voting closed 22

I know towns have the right to make their own rules, but it's foolish to have 100 different standards across Massachusetts. At least the rules should be based on something quantitive, such as the number of active cases. But even this is questionable in a state where towns are tiny and most people transverse several different municipalities each day.

Aside from making too much sense for the Commonwealth- it would end the Covid-fiat-fiefdoms in places like Somerville and Medford and rob us poor citizens of the chance to hear from the likes of Curtatone telling us how dangerous things are off the island here

up
Voting closed 15

This is the same type of mentality the "abolish the electoral college!" has...it doesn't make any sense at all. You can't have a blanket order for such a diverse state, you can't just let Boston as a major metro city dictate the entire situation. There absolutely can be individual sets of rules for each county and township. It's time to just start realistically looking at the virus and what it is instead of cowering in fear and letting politics dictate everything about it without question. Be cautious sure, but start being realistic.

up
Voting closed 2

Outdoor spaces have more dilution and air flow. Indoor spaces depend on fans to recirc and clear the air - poorly designed and it can deliver the virus to you without having to get up. That and having propane heaters means you can gas the occupants if you enclose. Radiant heaters are a better option open air, esp with people sitting there with masks off.

up
Voting closed 4

open-air heaters are absurdly wasteful.

up
Voting closed 17

They want to take a yard.

I want my sidewalks back.

up
Voting closed 24

I walk in the street most of the time to get away from sidewalk plague rats anyway.

up
Voting closed 12

just wide enough for a fire truck, instead of the two it currently has. Now you have plenty of room for tents.

up
Voting closed 29

Interesting how people who don't live in the neighborhood are always full of ideas about how to solve our problems. Maybe having "plenty of room for tents" is not a priority for the residents.

up
Voting closed 23

It's a commercial area that serves all of Boston, the surrounding metropolitan area, and via tourism, the world.

Folks who live there should be part of the conversation. But so too should folks who work there, folks who own businesses there, and folks who shop and dine there.

up
Voting closed 3

I'm glad you're open to ideas from outsiders. Here's mine:

Build vertically-stacked dining spaces that have grates for floors. Diners climb ladders to reach their table. Under the bottom one, place a big heater. The heat will rise up through the grates, warming all the diners, and not wasting a lot of public space. Of course, the lower-level diners will inevitably get a lot warmer than upper-level ones. When they're done, staff can take them inside, carve them up, and serve them to later arrivals.

up
Voting closed 2

Agree. Completely close Hanover to all modes of transportation except emergency vehicles. It really should be for pedestrians and wheelchair users only. Cars, trucks, cyclists and SUV's will just havs to survive a little bit of inconvenience from using the other streets.

up
Voting closed 15

How dare you choose people, health, jobs, enjoyment and tax revenue over cars!

up
Voting closed 24

That'll work for a day or two - until one of restaurants actually needs a delivery of, like... groceries or something.

up
Voting closed 9

Last I checked restaurants existed in the north end long before trucks existed. There are countless restaurants in pedestrian zones around the world. Have you ever left Boston? It seems like you haven’t.

up
Voting closed 10

So, the restaurants would get their deliveries by horse and carriage?

What I've seen around the world that even in pedestrian zones, trucks enter to make deliveries. In a lot of places, there are bollards that can lower out of the way.

up
Voting closed 7

Last I checked horses and carriages are no longer widely available for deliveries (or, really, anything).

Not that this is something you'd know, Kinopio, but people have been using motor vehicles for deliveries for a LONG time. The first Italian restaurant in the North End opened in 1924, and I assure you, coal and ice men were delivering using trucks at that time.

up
Voting closed 8

should also be wide enough for a delivery truck.

up
Voting closed 4

The suggestion was reducing Hanover to one active lane total, for fire department (and police/ambulance). So, a single delivery truck would block all of that.

I was on Hanover the other day. One lane open each direction for wheeled traffic, the rest taken related to outdoor dining. No provision made for delivery traffic to pull over (this was at 11 in the morning, and deliveries blocked one side of the road and all sorts of little clusters waiting to pass around stopped trucks.

Maybe they should figure out preferred hours for deliveries (like the loading zone or commerial vehicles only parking signs they already have up in places), maybe 9 AM - 11 AM, and make most of Hanover one-lane, one-way during that time. Probably one-way from Commercial Street (or at least the Fire Station) to the Greenway. Then they can have all the delivery trucks take up the other lane.

up
Voting closed 2

I go to the North End Waterfront Health Center, along with many other patients. They also provide a shuttle to other MGH properties so residents in the neighborhood can get health care. Fuck ‘em though, right?

up
Voting closed 6

Obviously you can have more tables and still leave enough of a turning radius at intersections and side streets. It involves using protractors, but still easily done.

up
Voting closed 3

One word: cars. That kid burned because drivers illegally parked their cars that blocked fire fighters. Ban cars from streets like Hanover. People will be safer and the economy will be healthier.

up
Voting closed 8

These kind of heaters, also called infrared, are used in open air locations year round - they heat the occupants with radiant heat, not heating air to distribute (I'm a mechanical engineer - I design and commission heating systems for a living). Radiant heaters can be used all winter but don't protect from wind gusts, which will be at ambient temperature.

up
Voting closed 21

I think of heaters as being more effective for a bar/appetizer setup, not sit-down dining.
Unless, of course, you have a lot of them and/or have tents with air circulating equipment (supply/exhaust).
How much does all that equipment (and fuel) cost? How much extra dining will it take to cover the cost?

up
Voting closed 8

It is probably not the end of the carnage of restaurants. I hope Mother Nature is kind this winter.

up
Voting closed 3