Published in the November 3, 2020 edition.


WAKEFIELD — Following the state’s lead, the Town Council voted last week to extend outdoor dining at participating local restaurants for another 60 days.

Earlier this year, Gov. Charlie Baker issued Executive Order 35, allowing restaurants to provide outdoor dining service with restrictions at the start of Phase II of the state’s reopening plan. The order also provided flexibility to local licensing authorities to permit the sale of alcoholic beverages to restaurant patrons sitting in the newly created outdoor dining areas.

In June, the Wakefield Town Council voted to allow outdoor dining and table service for participating local restaurants. 

But Executive Order 35 expired on Nov. 1, so in order to allow restaurants to continue to utilize their outdoor spaces, Gov. Baker issued Executive Order Number 50, which extends the expansion of outside table service through “60 days past the end of the State of the Emergency or such earlier date as the Town establishes”. This order allows the restaurants to increase their capacity outside, where many restaurant goers feel more comfortable, but it also allows the restaurants to expand the approved areas of use via their zoning and/or alcohol license approvals.

Specifically, the order allows restaurants to utilize their own (or public) parking areas for table service despite the fact that the reduction in available parking may be a violation of their underlying zoning approval. Restaurants that enjoy liquor licenses are also to expand the footprint of the area that they are allowed to serve alcohol despite that fact that the extra area does not match the approved area for alcohol service per their approved liquor license.

Last week, Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio recommended that the Council adopt Executive Order 50 so that local restaurants can continue to take advantage of the additional outdoor space for at least the next couple of months.

“As we all know, some restaurants have really embraced the use of public spaces, while others quite frankly have not,” Maio noted at last week’s Town Council meeting. “In this regard, I would like to have the authority to meet (along with DPW) with those restaurants still in the public way to see what their plans are, as we may shrink and/or completely remove some areas as the winter storms come. Flexibility here would be key as each situation is a little different as we look to extend their licenses.”

Maio observed that the Town Council’s earlier adoption of Executive Order 35 provided great relief to local restaurants, and urged adoption of Executive Order 50 in order to continue to provide that relief.

Town Council Chair Ann Santos agreed that the outdoor spaces should be re-evaluated, as some restaurants seem to be taking up more space than they need.

Town Councilor Julie Smith-Galvin said that she would also like to see some spaces created that are not attached to a specific restaurant, where people can go and sit outdoors after grabbing a slice of pizza, a sandwich or a cup of coffee. Those spaces would be separate from those approved for restaurants with liquor licenses.

There was also some discussion of the pros and cons of using outdoor heaters and tents as the weather gets colder.

Councilor Edward Dombroski noted that each restaurant’s circumstances are different, so he recommended continuing to give Maio and the DPW the necessary latitude and flexibility when working out arrangements with each restaurant.

The Town Council’s vote to adopt the provision of Executive order 50 and extend outdoor dining for another 60 days was unanimous.