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Outdoor dining program in Boston extended to Dec. 31 (but not in North End)

The Pearl seafood restaurant features various forms of outdoor dining with space heaters and speakers.
The Pearl seafood restaurant features various forms of outdoor dining with space heaters and speakers.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

Boston restaurants can continue hosting outdoor diners with expanded seating until Dec. 31, under an extension that Mayor Michelle Wu announced Wednesday.

The temporary outdoor dining program, first enacted in June 2020 to help restaurants survive the COVID-19 pandemic, was previously set to expire on Dec. 1. But North End restaurateurs packed up their makeshift outdoor setups a month early, by Nov. 1, after a swath of residents rallied to terminate the accommodations. The new extension does not apply to North End eateries.

The announcement will aid businesses during a continued period of economic recovery and provide a safe option for residents to gather, according to a city statement. The average number of daily new COVID-19 cases has jumped 59 percent in New England in the past two weeks.

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“Activating public spaces to expand outdoor dining helps bolster our local businesses during pandemic recovery and creates connected communities spaces for residents, visitors, and families,” Wu said in a statement. “Expanding to winter outdoor dining will help our communities stay safe, healthy, and vibrant.”

Saltie Girl owner Kathy Sidell said outdoor dining has made “the difference between wreckage and survival” for dozens of Boston restaurants, including her Back Bay seafood spot. The success of another month of sidewalk seating depends on the weather, Sidell said. But having 64 additional outdoor seats — on top of her 42 indoor chairs and permanent patio — is unlikely to hurt business.

“You don’t know what people’s appetite is as it gets colder,” Sidell said. “It’s tough to predict.”

Raechel Manzler, the director of marketing at Yellow Door Taqueria, expects diners to come out “in true New England style,” she said. “There will be people bundling up and enduring the cold to eat tacos — I’m telling you.”

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Some of the 14 outdoor tables at Yellow Door Taqueria.
Some of the 14 outdoor tables at Yellow Door Taqueria. Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

The city’s temporary program doubles the capacity at the restaurant’s South End location, from 15 to 29 tables total. It’s a needed booster, Manzler said, after a sharp dip in revenue during the last pandemic winter left eateries struggling.

“This gives people options,” she added, “and we have seen in the last two years how much businesses can benefit from measures like outdoor dining.”

Existing prohibitions on tents and similar structures on public property, and on extension cords running across sidewalks, as well as requirements for appropriate permitting for propane heaters and fuel storage, remain in effect.

City officials repeatedly pushed the deadline on outdoor dining in 2020, too, from Oct. 31 to Dec. 1.

Cambridge also recently extended its temporary outdoor dining licenses through April 1. And the City of Boston is in the midst of reevaluating its permanent outdoor dining program.


Diti Kohli can be reached at diti.kohli@globe.com.Follow her on Twitter @ditikohli_.