Hull restaurant owners, gearing up for what they hope will be a very busy season, received some good news this week.
Town Manager Philip Lemnios proposed that local eateries that were granted permission during the pandemic last year for new or expanded outdoor seating (through an expedited approval process that fell under state’s coronavirus-related regulations) be allowed to continue to do so this year as warm weather approaches. The Board of Selectmen voiced unanimous support for his proposal.
During the board’s discussion about rules and regulations related to 2021 seasonal outdoor seating guidelines and liquor licenses under the state of emergency order issued by Gov. Charlie Baker last year, town officials reiterated their support for local restaurants.
Some of the approved new outdoor seating and expansions involve town and state Department of Conservation and Recreation property, with the necessary approvals in place.
Baker’s updated order allows restaurants to operate under the expedited process until 60 days beyond the end of the state of emergency, which is still in effect.
“We’re not sure when the emergency declaration will end,” Lemnios said, but in the meantime Hull restaurants can look forward to offering the same expanded outdoor dining opportunities this year.
Town Counsel James Lampke said the uncertainty has made some Hull restaurant owners “nervous and concerned.” He offered an example of why: “If the governor were to end the emergency declaration in May, the 60-day extension would end in the middle of the summer season,” he explained.
To address that issue, an effort is underway to bring restaurateurs’ concern to Baker’s attention. “Hopefully, he will consider issuing another executive order to extend the end period at least until well into the end of the season,” Lampke said.
In the meantime, the selectmen unanimously agreed to support the continuation of prior outdoor seating approvals.
As for the DCR-owned property that was approved for outdoor seating earlier, Lampke said that, as he recalls, there was no end-date to that approval. “I believe we can proceed as outlined, but out of an abundance of caution we’ll reach out to the DCR for a confirmation on that,” he said, adding, “The board wants to do whatever it can to help local restaurants.”
Local eating establishments were also pleased to hear that restaurants that sell alcohol for on-premises consumption are no longer subject to a 40 percent cap on indoor seating capacity under the current Phase 3/Step 2 of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan. Social distancing guidelines remain in place.
Musical performances are allowed again, with a required 6-foot physical distancing between customers’ tables.
There is a 90-minute time limit per table, and the maximum table capacity of six people remains in effect, along with the requirement that food must be served with alcohol orders.
Establishments with licenses for on-premises food consumption can continue to make alcohol sales to go with take-out orders until the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency.