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Pittsfield Licensing Board Ratifies Outdoor Dining Extension

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Licensing Board on Wednesday ratified an extension granted earlier for "temporary extension of premises to outdoor dining" licenses until 60 days after Gov. Charlie Baker declares the state of emergency over.

"What happened here was the Gov. Baker's COVID-19 order dated Sept. 10 allowed the extension to licensees of folks who have previously received temporary outdoor service approval," Chairman Thomas Campoli said. "So we had approved a bunch of those and under Gov. Baker's order we can extend the time they can operate outside until 60 days after he declares the state of emergency is over."

After Baker's Nov. 2 press conference, where he outlined new COVID-19 regulations in response to a drastic increase of novel coronavirus cases in the commonwealth, Campoli administratively extended each approval that the board had previously received. This action required the ratification from the board.

In June, the Licensing Board voted unanimously to give Campoli the ability to independently act upon applications to expand restaurant service outdoors.  

Leading up to this vote, Mayor Linda Tyer had released an order that would further expedite the outdoor dining process and allow Campoli and the Licensing Board to act on applications on their own.

City staff would review applications and comment on the use of both private and public areas and after a three day review, the application would go to the chairman who had the ability to make the decision for the entire board.

Campoli expressed that his default is to have the entire board discuss any questions raised in the process.

This made restaurants that provide seated food prepared on-site able to expand seating to sidewalks, patios, decks, lawns, and parking lots in congruence with social distancing guidelines.

This order also allowed the Licensing Board to expand alcohol licenses premises for outdoor services in an expedited process. There is no application fee, as the order was intended to be "loose" so there was some wiggle room.

During the COVID-19-ridden summer, many restaurants benefited from the use of outdoor dining.  Creativity was used to turn parking lots or sidewalks into dining areas, giving them the ability to provide table service when indoor dining was not yet allowed.

In the last two weeks of October, Pittsfield saw 17 new COVID-19 cases and Berkshire County saw 36.  The Berkshires were not alone with rising cases, as the whole country is on the rise, largely because of failures to follow safety protocols for the virus. 

On Nov.1, the state Department of Public Health reported 1,139 new cases, which brought the total number of confirmed cases in the commonwealth to 155,660.

The seven-day average for positive tests in the commonwealth is 1.8 percent, and the state is seeing a higher number of cases every day, Baker said on Monday.

Since Labor Day, the number of new cases per day has grown by almost 300 percent.

Baker said the solution to this is not shutting down the economy or closing schools, as schools have proven to not be spreaders. Instead, he said that residents need change their behavior and put their guards from the virus back up.

"We've let down our guard and we have work to do," Baker said.

With trends heading in the wrong direction, Baker said that if nothing is done, there will be capacity problems for Massachusetts health-care systems by the end of the year.

"They bailed us out last spring with their grit, creativity and determination, and they're worried about what they see every single day," he said referring to health-care workers. "They deserve our best efforts to avoid recreating the high case and hospital counts that we all lived through last spring."

Baker announced a series of targeted interventions that will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 6:

  • A stay-at-home advisory from the Department of Public Health in affect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • A signed executive order that requires indoor recreation facilities to close at 9:30, restaurants to stop table service at 9:30, and the shutting down of all liquor sales at 9:30
  • An updated gatherings order to reduce the gatherings limit in private homes to 10 people indoors and 20 outside with gatherings required to end at 9:30
  • An updated face-covering order that requires everyone over the age of 5 to wear a face-covering in public

"With these measures, it is our hope that we can encourage everyone to act responsibly and stay away from riskier activities," Baker said.


Tags: license board,   outdoor seating,   restaurants,   

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