PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In congruence with the governor's order to expedite the reopening of restaurants with social distancing guidelines, the Licensing Board agreed to streamline its one process locally.
The board voted unanimously Monday to give Chairman Thomas Campoli the ability independently act upon applications to expand restaurant service outdoors.
"The idea is to get to as many of these that are in order as soon as possible," Campoli said. "If they are in order, I am ready to act on them."
Campoli referred to the governor's order that would allow restaurants that provide seated food service prepared on-site, and who have an existing retail food permit with the city, to operate with outdoor table service allowing dining with social distancing restrictions.
This means restaurants can expand seating to sidewalks, patios, decks, lawns, or parking lots.
The order allows local licensing boards to expand local alcohol licenses premises for outdoor service in an expedited process.
With this process, the board would not be required to hold a public hearing, notify abutters, and the ABCC approval would not be required.
"It is clearly a streamlined process," Campoli said.
These expansions would only be allowed until Nov. 1 or when the order is rescinded, whichever is sooner.
Mayor Linda Tyer released a local order that would further expedite the process and allow the chairman of the License Board to act on applications on their own.
Restaurants with outdoor seating would still have to apply if they wish to expand beyond their current footprint.
There would be no application fee.
Previously, the board planned to meet weekly to deal with applications.
City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta said city staff would review applications and comment on the use of both private and public areas. After a three day review, this would go to the chairman for consideration. The chairman has the ability to kick the decision to the entire board.
Campoli pledged that any application he thought was questionable he would send to the entire board.
"I think a lot these will be straight forward ... but I think where there would be a real decision made would be in terms of who is entitled to these," he said. "I would be inclined with any question ... my default would be to have the entire board discuss it."
Board member Richard Stockwell asked if the Police or Fire Department would be involved in surveying the location.
City Planner CJ Hoss said they would be on the checklist for any public property use. Hoss said for private land, use the Police and Fire departments would still add comments for the board to consider. Most notably they would comment on if fire engines could easily access the property and if patrons were shielded form vehicles.
Stockwell asked about clubs and other facilities that may have the ability to serve food but are more or less a bar or meeting place.
"Where do they come in under this umbrella," he said.
Campoli said under the current order they would not meet the requirements but Pagnotta added that because the order is intended to be "loose" there may be some wiggle room.
Hoss said some breweries in the county are considering bringing food trucks on the premise to help them qualify for the expansion allowing them to reopen.
Pagnotta said his first thought was that this would not be workable under the current order but noted as time goes on he suspects the governor will provide more guidance.
Campoli said any of these applications should come before the entire board.
"I think we have to wait for things to come in ... and if I got one of those I would ask them to come to a meeting because more facts are going to come out," he said. "They would have to convince us."
Board member Dina Lampiasi asked if the city is considering pedestrian-only areas that would accommodate more seating.
Hoss said they are early in these conversations and noted if restaurants were clustered around these spaces, restaurants without the ability to expand seating outside their immediate facility could benefit.
He said on North Street this could create issues for emergency services who need to be able to move freely down the busy road. He said they would need to find ways to make emergency services comfortable with it.
"We are talking about it and we are thinking about it," he said. "I think part of this is what kind of demand we will have."
Currently, there are six applications with two more incomplete
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