Published March 18, 2021

By MAUREEN DOHERTY

NORTH READING — Gov. Charlie Baker will be hearing from the North Reading Select Board this week.

In an effort to support struggling restaurants, both here and throughout the state, recover at least some of their ongoing losses as a result of mandatory closures, restrictions on the number of patrons and the amount of time diners may be in their restaurants, the board vote unanimously Monday night to sign a letter requesting that Baker extend the temporary outdoor table service rules authorized under his June 1, 2020 and Sept. 10, 2020 COVID-19 Executive Orders.

The letter reads in part: “Temporary outdoor table service has provided restaurants the ability to safely and efficiently accommodate more patrons at their premises while the Commonwealth’s economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. In North Reading, we have established a business-friendly process to make outdoor table service a potential option for all restaurants without requiring owners to go through the potentially timely and expensive process of obtaining the necessary state and local permits and approvals otherwise required for permanent outdoor dining.”

“In light of the success of this program authorized under your order, we are respectfully requesting that temporary outdoor table service be extended through December 31, 2021 so that our local businesses can plan their investment in equipment for the upcoming season accordingly.”

It is signed by Chair Kathryn Manupelli, Vice Chair Liane Gonzalez, Clerk Vincenzo Stuto and members Stephen O’Leary and Richard Wallner. Copies were provided to both state Sen. Bruce Tarr and state Rep. Brad Jones as well as the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) and the Reading-North Reading Chamber of Commerce.

At Monday’s meeting, Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto reported that last year the Select Board had granted approval to six restaurants through the expedited outdoor dining provisions enabled under the governor’s order. The review included an extension of alcohol service to the outdoor dining area of a restaurant and certification by the building and health departments that all health and safety codes were met, including provisions for sanitation, ensuring the tents would withstand hurricane-force winds, and that patrons would be protected from vehicles in parking lots with the installation of appropriate barriers.

“The board was given the authority to extend that approval to up to 60 days after the end of the State of Emergency, which the board did almost immediately in September or October of last year,” Gilleberto said. “There are six establishments pre-permitted to go forward with what they had last fall. We have contacted all of them to let them know that is the case, through the Public Safety Director.” 

Police Chief Michael Murphy serves as the Public Safety Director.

Gilleberto added that to date, the Horseshoe has responded in the affirmative to put their tent back up “sooner rather than later. We expect that there will be others as the weather is a bit more reliable. Assuming there are no changes what they do, they will be all set,” he said.

Restaurant owners that want to make changes to their outdoor set-up from last year will simply need to apply for another expedited permitted process. “We do not intend to change anything because we thought it worked well last year,” the town administrator said.

Gonzalez had asked that this item be put on the agenda. “My concern was that once the State of Emergency ends that the extended outdoor dining would end and what if that was the middle of the summer and these people who had invested into that would have to stop (operating)? I contacted Mr. Gilleberto to find out what we could do to ensure that they could at least get the entire season and hopefully through to the fall,” she said.

The result was the letter drafted by Gilleberto that the board voted to sign. “It’s the cleanest and most expeditious way for (restaurants) to have the certainty. In a call with the MMA, the lieutenant governor indicated that she would carry this concern forward to the state administration,” he said.

O’Leary commented that he had heard from a few restaurant owners who were appreciative of the town taking the time to reach out to them to let then know that the permitting process would remain unchanged for the coming outdoor dining season under the existing state of emergency guidelines.

Seasonal license renewals

Also on Monday night, the board unanimously approved the seasonal license renewals for both of the town’s golf courses plus one individual (Robert Connors) who sells flowers on holidays like Easter and Mother’s Day in the parking lot of the Horseshoe Grille, 226 Main St.

The Thomson Club Inc., d.b.a. Pro Shop, and d.b.a. TCC Grill was granted renewal of its seasonal club wine and malt beverages license for the Pro Shop, through Oct. 31, as well as its seasonal club all alcohol license and common victualler license for the TCC Grill, both through Dec. 31.

The town’s golf course at the Hillview Country Club, through its management company, Golf Facilities Management Inc. (GFMI), d.b.a Hillview Snack Bar, was granted its seasonal wine and malt beverages license, through Oct. 31, and its common victualler license, through Dec. 31.

Hillview pub operator sought

Additionally, now that Teresa’s gave up its license to run the Hillview Country Club’s banquet hall and pub – following a year in which banquet facilities were effectively not allowed to operate statewide – the Hillview Commission is actively seeking a pub operator to manage just the pub facility for the 2021 golf season.

Without a management company running the facility the town must cover all the utilities in the building at 149 North Street, Hillview Commissioner Peter Hemme told the board. The ad for the pub operator is seeking written proposals that include a food and beverage menu, hours of operation, staffing plan and financial terms (rent and utilities) by Friday, April 23 at noon.

To schedule a site visit, contact Karen Moberg at: [email protected].

A legal notice stating the requirements is published in today’s Transcript.