Outside Dining Approved For Harwich Restaurants

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Business , COVID-19

Selectmen cleared the way for many local restaurants to allow outdoor dining under streamlined regulations set up by the state. KAT SZMIT PHOTO 

HARWICH — Interim Town Administrator Joseph Powers has been directed to lead the town’s efforts to approve individual restaurant requests to expand outdoor dining and liquor service under phase two of the state's re-opening plan.

Early actions by town staff, selectmen and Powers led to quick results on Monday with selectmen reaffirming approvals for nine restaurants that the interim town administrator determined met the criteria selectmen put in place Friday. Powers said there were 15 requests from restaurants; several had outstanding issues, but many of the issues could be resolved and licenses could be issued by Tuesday.

The number one problem, Powers said, has been scale drawing requirements that show what restaurants want to do, including delineating clear pathways with proper distancing between locations for take-out orders and where people will be dining. Another issue slowing the approval process has been presentation of insurance certificates covering the expanded service area and showing coverage of town liability.

Selectmen held a special meeting Friday to put in place a process for allowing the outdoor table service and expanded sale of alcohol in anticipation of Gov. Charlie Baker announcing Saturday that phase two of his reopening plan would go forward Monday. Selectmen wanted to be in a position to begin issuing approvals to restaurants Monday.

Powers and Health Department Director Meggan Eldredge communicated with a large number of the 65 restaurant owners in town last Wednesday, with Eldredge provided a PowerPoint presentation to 30 owners. The presentation included an overview of requirements under Gov. Baker’s COVID-19 order NO. 35, including an overview of Massachusetts safety standards and best practices; the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission’s latest advisory; expansion of premises approval for the board of selectmen; and alcohol consumption procedures.

The safety and best practices procedures detailed social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and operations and cleaning and disinfecting procedures. The requirements to expand seating to certain spaces not previously licensed, basically outdoor locations, and expanded licensing as it relates to ABCC provisions were discussed.

Selectmen authorized Powers to approve requests that meet all requirements, including the scale drawing of the property showing the location of tables, chairs and any barriers proposed; indication of the number of seats proposed; any carry-out service waiting areas; maximum occupancy number; and a lease if the applicant is not the owner of the property.

There were specific provisions for establishments seeking a change of description for alcohol service areas in compliance with ABCC requirements for outdoor service. Such areas must be contiguous to the licensed premises and have either a clear view of the serving area from inside the premises or management personnel in the area. Alcohol can only be served to patrons who are seated at tables where food is also served. The noise issue drew concerns from selectmen regarding the mixed-use neighborhood in Harwich Port. Selectman Michael MacAskill said officials want to help the businesses but also have to help the neighbors.

The issue of late-night serving hours outdoors drew some discussion. Selectman Stephen Ford said people talking with friends in bars can be loud and may be a problem outdoors. When a restaurant kitchen closes at 9 p.m. and alcohol service is allowed until midnight, the outside area becomes a bar, said Selectman Ed McManus.

The board has not taken up issues of entertainment. Powers said there is nothing in any of the provisions where the local licensing authority is surrendering any of its authority.

If restaurants see the need to use the sidewalk in Harwich Port, Powers said he has reached out to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation about the potential closure of one lane along a small section of Route 28. He said he has been directed to MassDOT District Five Engineer Bill Travers to continue the discussion.

Powers said vetting of applications that has been conducted by town staff for outdoor service allowed many of the restaurant to be open for such service by 4 p.m. Monday.

“Almost half of these restaurants will be up and running and I’m optimistic all of them will be up and running by tomorrow,” Powers said Monday.

An updated list as of Tuesday morning showed 11 out of 15 restaurant applications approved. They are 400 East, A&W Family Restaurant, Cape Sea Grille, Capeside Kitchen, Ember, Jake Rooney’s, L’Alouette, Lanyard Bar and Grill, Mad Minnow, Seal Pub, TenYen/Three Monkeys Street Bar and The Port Restaurant and Bar.

“Everyone is extremely happy to be open today and it’s great to see the open flags waving,” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cyndi Williams told the board.