City seeking vendor to bring beer gardens to local parks

A temporary beer garden was part of the scene at the Dorchester Bike and Brew event held in September 2019 on Talbot Avenue near Ashmont and Peabody Square. Reporter file photo

Residents of Dorchester — and six other neighborhoods across the city — will be able to grab a beer in a local park this summer if a City Hall plan for mobile beer gardens finds a vendor.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department is reviewing applicants for hosts of a mobile beer garden that will travel through the city for 14 weeks, from June to October, according to a request for proposals (RFP)reviewed by the Reporter. The vendor will pay a flat fee and a cut of the gross to the city for the opportunity to sell beer and food at parks in Dorchester, South Boston, West Roxbury, Charlestown, East Boston, Jamaica Plain, and Roxbury, according to the RFP, which does not specify which parks will be used.

A spokesperson for Mayor Wu’s office said the city was still reviewing locations, and a Boston Police Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about police presence at the parks while the vendor is operating.

Jacob Bor, a board member of the Franklin Park Coalition, said the board hadn’t taken any official stance on the park possibly hosting a beer garden. But as a long-time park user and Egleston Square resident, he was enthusiastic about the idea.

“I think it’s pretty exciting, I look forward to raising a pint,” Bor said. “The park is such a beautiful place. The beer garden will have to be enclosed but ideally they could enclose a large enough area for you to sit on a hillside and watch the sunset and have a beer.”

Then-Mayor Marty Walsh started hosting beer gardens at City Hall Plaza, which began as monthly events before becoming regular presences during the summer. Last year, Democracy Brewing and Distraction Brewing served beer while Roslindale-based Jimmie’s Cafe handled food and non-alcoholic drinks. The Esplanade and Rose Kennedy Greenway have also hosted regular beer gardens over the past few years.

But instead of adding variety to the brick plaza of City Hall, the mobile vendor program would encourage more visitors to Boston’s green spaces, according to the RFP.

“The goal of this program is to attract people to the City’s diverse neighborhood parks and provide a new amenity for park users,” the RFP reads. “Bringing a hospitality beer garden experience into the Boston neighborhoods is a way of attracting people to visit and celebrate our beautiful parks.”

For his part, Bor said he would want the vendor to accurately reflect park users and city demographics overall.

“One thing I’d really love to see — there are a few new Black- and Brown-owned and women-owned breweries in the area – in thinking of the demographics around the park, it’d be really wonderful if the city could recruit one of those breweries for events at the park,” Bor said. “There’s going to be other ways to make sure the event is integrated into surrounding communities, rather than swooping in to do a one-off.”

The vendor is scheduled to start serving on June 16 and rotate through a different park every two weeks, according to the RFP. Service ends in mid-September, but with the option of extending into October. Operations will run at a minimum from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, but city officials may approve changes to the operating schedule, according to the RFP.

The mayoral spokesman did not answer questions about whether alcohol would be served the entire time the vendor is operating. Bor said he hoped officials and vendors would work to prevent drunk driving, especially if the chosen parks didn’t have readily accessible public transit.
“Keeping the safety aspect in mind — people coming and then imbibing and leaving is something worth really thinking through how to do that safely. But I think people are generally responsible,” Bor said.

The vendor has to provide seats and restrooms for patrons and is responsible for trash removal, according to the RFP.  And officials are encouraging the vendor to host music as well in order to contribute to a “lively atmosphere,” although “the vendor shall ensure that noise from the Entertainment cannot be heard beyond the boundaries of a respective Selected Location,” according to the RFP.

The pilot program will run for a year with a two-year option for renewal, and the vendor will pay the parks department a flat fee of a minimum of $14,000 a month for the concession — as well as a minimum 8 percent monthly percentage of gross receipts. 

And besides alcohol, officials want to see a superior menu than what’s available at many Boston eateries.

“The City is particularly interested in receiving proposals from individuals or firms whose current venues offer settings and menus widely recognized to be more creative and of higher quality than the average city venue,” the RFP reads.

PDF icon Mobile_Beer_Garden_Vendors_RFP_2024.pdf604.29 KB

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