Most North End restaurants are complying with state and city Covid-19 regulations, but those that aren't can expect to have their new patio areas shut immediately, city licensing officials told restaurant owners today.
Both ISD inspectors and BPD's licensing unit will be walking the streets of the North End starting tomorrow making sure restaurants haven't taken up more curbside space than they were granted, that tables are at least six feet apart and that employees are wearing masks - as are customers when they get up from their tables, Boston Licensing Board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce said. Also, she added, anybody who's installed couches or is piping in music better get rid of the couches and disconnect the music immediately. And stop letting customers smoke, she added.
Joyce told North End restaurant owners at a mandatory Zoom meeting today that they city really wants to help them get through the current pandemic and that letting them put seats down at the curb without a hearing process that typically would take months is part of that.
But at the same time, she continued, the board has to worry about public health and safety. The new outdoor space is a privilege granted by the city and it can be taken away immediately: Both ISD inspectors and police can and will instantly revoke the patio permits of any restaurants found not in compliance - to the point that diners will be told to leave immediately, without even paying their bills, she said, adding, that, yes, inspectors will have tape measures to check the distances between tables.
And when that happens, the police will then do a complete inspection of the entire restaurant, which could lead to a disciplinary hearing before the board, she said.
Board Executive Secretary Lesley Delaney Hawkins said 311 has gotten more than 50 complaints from North End residents about possible violations and that she and board members have also gotten their share of complaints from residents.
Some have been about dogs being allowed to sit with their owners. One restaurant owner asked what he's supposed to do if a customer refuses to show proof that a dog is actually a service animal - which are allowed with diners. ISD Commissioner Dion Irish acknowledged that yes, "let's face it, a lot of people show up with the dogs and don't necessarily have a service need," and he allowed that restaurant owners cannot ask for papers. But they can ask if the dog is a service animal and, if so, what service it provides, after which the owner has done all he or she can.
However, he added that what the city is really looking for is for restaurant owners not to advertise "puppy friendly patios," which he said has not been an issue in the North End, unlike in some other Boston neighborhoods.