Comments on Policy of Guidelines for Outdoor Café within Public Ways

Comments on Policy of Guidelines for Outdoor Café within Public Ways

WalkBoston comments to the Boston Public Improvement Commission regarding:

“A Policy of Guidelines for Outdoor Café within Public Ways, Effective: September 1, 2017”

Submitted August 24, 2017

We would be happy to meet with PIC or other City staff to review and discuss our comments.

1. Pleased that new regulations will allow alcohol to be served on the “far side” of the sidewalk– a good change for the liveliness of the City.

2. Interesting and good to allow the expansion onto the curb and street areas—Curbline and Roadway seating. Again this creates new opportunities.

3. Technical issue: 2f should refer to the seating located within the restaurant’s property, not only that located within the City’s sidewalks. I think they have to approve both.

4. Technical issue: 14 should say “planters and their contents” because a lot of cafes have plant material hanging out far—even up to a foot. That subtracts that distance from the walking right of way.

5. Regulations should provide a simple table that indicates which department is responsible for different elements of the regulations – it might clarify that there are still many, many actors in the process.

6. Minimum dimension for path of travel 4 feet, preferred minimum is 6 feet – exclusive of street furniture or any other obstructions. Minimum should be 5 feet unless there are extraordinary circumstances.

7. Minimum sidewalk dimension to allow any cafe should be at least XXX feet – to ensure adequate POT plus dimension for café. The City should make this determination before finalizing the guidelines.

8. Modify the rule that the café should not occupy more than 50% of the sidewalk because that may not be appropriate for wide areas and may be insufficient for narrow sidewalks where there should be no café at al (see #2 above).

9. Require a minimum of 15 business days of notice for review by the public, and require that the plans available electronically so that upon request they can be reviewed by the public (much as the way in which BPDA now posts filings on line).

10. The cafe must be removed from the sidewalk when not in continuous use. The season can extend beyond May-September, but the cafe equipment and furnishings must be removed from the sidewalk if they are not used for more than ten days.

11. Set a schedule for fees and permitting costs – may be based on size, location, restaurant revenues, etc. but should be transparent.

12. Provide opportunities for pop up cafes for short-term (1-5 days) use.

13. Set a schedule and program for enforcement, including a point person for responding to public complaints when cafes are not following the rules (see attached photo).

Café of Restaurant XXXX on Tremont Street in the South End, little action taken after reported earlier this summer. We include this as one example where encroachment is taking place without being addressed.
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