Editorial: Change in temps bring new challenges for eateries

Yurts on the Bowery patio last season.

Pull out those long-johns. Double-up on the fuzzy socks. Outdoor dining season on public property has been extended through at least Dec. 1 in the city of Boston. That’s good news.

The Walsh administration lifted restrictions on sidewalk patios— and offered plenty of help in the form of infrastructure— to get restaurants that were shuttered indoors back into some form of business this summer. Those provisions were due to expire on Halloween. Mayor Walsh announced Tuesday that restaurants can continue to serve customers on their makeshift patios for another month, weather permitting. Outdoor dining that is staged on private property can go on for the duration of the health emergency, he said.

“Restaurants have faced incredible challenges during this ongoing public health crisis, and the City of Boston is committed to helping them survive and succeed, including by giving restaurants more flexibility around outdoor dining,” Walsh said.

Restaurants, particularly downtown, have been gutted by the covid scourge.Many have closed permanently. Dorchester has fared better— at least, so far. Most existing neighborhood restaurants re-opened after the state-mandated ban on indoor dining was eased, aided in part extra outdoor space in what turned out to be a great summer, weather-wise. And, given that many people are working from home and often within easy striking distance, Dot people have been patronizing their local businesses.

But the chill of fall is in the air and the first flakes aren’t far behind. Restauranteurs and their allies at City Hall need to find new ways to keep customers at room temperature while they dine, particularly if there’s some reprise of indoor restrictions.

At the Bowery in Lower Mills, which boasts a terrific outdoor dining space as part of its existing footprint, they plan to bring back a trio of yurts that made their debut last winter. Back then, the Bowery yurts— basically an upscale tent, decked out with blankets and handsomely decorated— were a novelty, a way to make decent use of a space that went little-used for five months of the year. This season, they’ll have company in the form of a larger, heated tent that the Bowery’s owners plan to erect over a larger side patio that will afford them extra seating space. They are hoping to have the tent and the yurts up and running in early November.

Restaurants will need more technical support from City Hall to make it work. They’ll also need our continued patronage to survive the winter. Let’s make it happen.

-Bill Forry