Building Commissioner Gerald Garner and Code Enforcement Officer Mark Blaisdell helped craft an application to streamline the reopening process for Adams restaurants.
ADAMS, Mass. — The state's Phase 2 reopening on Monday includes provisions for restaurants to begin outdoor dining.
Restaurants have been limited to take out and delivery since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. The reopening plan is great news for an industry that, according to the National Restaurant Association, lost a total of $80 billion in sales and over 5 million jobs in March and April alone because of the global pandemic.
It will not be as simple as sweeping the sidewalk and setting up tables however. As much as municipalities would like to facilitate the process and get credit card charges, not to mention local meals tax revenue, flowing again they must still follow several guidelines set forth by the state. There is also the local inspectional services department that has rules to be satisfied.
The Adams Board of Selectmen tackled all of this at Monday night's meeting.
"We put together this form with guidance from ... the governor's office, and the ABCC (Alcohol Beverage Control Commission). It asks for a diagram from the establishment as far as what their outside seating will look like. It's going to include measurements ... for capacity, any impediments to a public way, whether or not the outside seating will be on a public way. If it is on a public way they are going to have to have an insurance rider (to indemnify the town)," Code Enforcement Officer Mark Blaisdell told the board.
The form itself is a step in the right direction as Gov. Charlie Baker has granted power to the local licensing authorities to issue outdoor seating licenses and amendments to current liquor licenses to accommodate a rapid turnaround for restaurants to start serving outdoors. Decisions normally made by local zoning boards or at the state level are now being given leeway to be made locally by the town.
"When the governor issued his order on Saturday he streamlined the process to allow for outdoor seating," Town Administrator Jay Green explained. "Normally an outdoor seating request ... is handled through the zoning office and the town will have a bylaw in place. We are not so equipped in the town of Adams. The legislature and governor's office knew this and the order specifically exempts, through Nov. 1, such a process.
"The reason why we're having this conversation this evening is because the executive order states that a ... town's chief executive officer, which in our case is the Board of Selectmen, has to just approve a simplified process to allow table seating outside. The form you have in front of you is only for outdoor seating, separate from alcohol."
Green made it clear that any restaurant that currently holds an outdoor seating and alcohol serving license and that meets current social distancing guidelines set forth by the state could open as of Monday. If an establishment wishes to expand its current outdoor serving footprint or create one from scratch, Green said that is where the town gets involved and explained the process.
"A restaurant will contact inspectional services, [Building Commissioner Gerald Garner] and Mark will go out, they'll look at what the desired premises are, the details the business owners pitch. They will look at it from a safety lens, from an ADA compliance lens ... also through the sanitation lens," he said. "Mark and Gerry will look at it through their two respective code enforcement areas ... then make the recommendation back to approve or not and essentially approve it right then and there."
Green said it was the most streamlined they could make it in a way that would also balance safety and allow an eatery to do what it needed from a business model.
Serving alcohol outdoors under the current executive order also gets a bit confusing. An establishment that currently holds a license to serve alcohol outdoors may begin doing so but still must adhere to thhe safety guidelines (maintaining a 6 foot distance from the public, partitions, safe restroom access, among others).
Eateries that hold a liquor license but currently cannot serve outside may apply for the right to do so. Normally this process takes several months as, upon approval by the local authority, it has to go for a final review and approval by the state's ABCC. Under the new streamlined process, should the town grant the change to a liquor license, it must merely inform the ABCC of its ruling. The amendment will be temporary and will expire Nov. 1. Any establishment that currently does not hold a liquor license does not qualify for any of the temporary changes and must go through the normal application process.
One of the major hurdles in reopening and specifically serving alcohol outside will be maintaining a 6-foot buffer between patrons themselves and also the public. Maintaining a 3-foot sidewalk path for pedestrians will also be an impediment for cafe-style dining. A quick walk down any of Adams' streets and it's apparent that a table of any reasonable size will encroach on that distance.
Selectmen James Bush, Christine Hoyt, and John Duval discuss the town's Phase II reopening.
Despite the challenges, several restaurants have already begun preparing for phase II as power washers, paint cans, and brooms were a familiar site around Adams this past week. One local, longtime restaurateur said he is obviously looking forward to the additional income but the reopening holds deeper benefits as well.
"Not only do we want to get back to normal business, outdoor dining is the only way we can do it right now. Not only for the success of the restaurant and all of the employees but we actually miss all of our customers," said David Nichols of Bounti-fare. "Some of whom have become very good and close friends. It's almost going to be like a reunion this week."
When asked by Selectman John Duval about the projected turnaround time for this process, Blaisdell didn't hesitate with his response.
"A matter of hours. More than likely [if called] we will be out that day and then our approval by the end of that day and then Jay's office for a final sign off for issuance the next day," he said.
Deb Dunlap, the administrative assistant for the town administrator, stepped up and requested that the fee for the amended licenses be waived. Normally the cost to change a liquor license is $100.
"I'm asking for consideration from the board to think about whether we can waive the fees," she said. "Right now these businesses have not been able to bring in money so is that a possibility?"
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New Adams Police Chief, Officers Union Contract Announced Wednesday Night
By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
Officer Josh Baker reads from a portion of the new three-year union contract that was ratified by the Selectmen on Wednesday night.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen on Wednesday officially introduced new interim Police Chief Troy Bacon in all too common COVID-19 style.
The appointment of a municipality's top law enforcement officer is usually heavily attended by town officials and accompanied by dozens of handshakes. Because of restrictions in place from the worldwide pandemic, this one was carried out with nary an elbow bump.
Bacon will assume the post on Tuesday, July 14, after current Chief Richard Tarsa's retirement becomes official at 11:59 p.m. Monday night. Bacon, 44, recently retired from the Frankfort, Ind., police department after 20 years. He had one of his daughters with him this week for a whirlwind tour of the area before she headed back on a plane to the Midwest.
"One thing she said was, 'There's a lot of trees here dad," he answered smiling when asked by Selectman Joseph Nowak about his daughter's first impression of the area. "I told her yes, that's right, that's one of the reasons I applied here.
Bacon will assume the post on Tuesday, July 14, after current Chief Richard Tarsa's retirement becomes official at 11:59 p.m. Monday night. Bacon, 44, recently retired from the Frankfort, Ind., police department after 20 years. click for more
Late last year, the Board of Health agreed to implement a new regulation that would limit the amount of tobacco sales permits allowed in town. The new regulation would not affect those already selling tobacco products.
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The past few weeks have seen on-site retail sales return and patio seating reopen, followed by a socially distanced form of inside dining for restaurants.
Wednesday night the board, with guidance from Code Enforcement Officer Mark Blaisdell, took the necessary steps to reopen parks and open... click for more
Just like its partner in the Hoosac Valley Regional School District, Cheshire, and the school district itself, Adams will wait for definitive state aid numbers from Boston before approving a hard budget. The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned wide speculation of revenue shortfalls in the commonwealth.... click for more