The mystery surrounding the start of Phase 2 of the Massachusetts reopening plan has been solved: It officially was Monday, June 8. Now retailers can let a limited number of people in and restaurants can begin offering outdoor dining.
We swung by Natick Mall on Monday early afternoon and had plenty of room to maneuver. But shoppers had started to brave the squeaky clean stores, including Journeys, Macy’s and others. You really didn’t have to try too hard to socially distance though.
The Mall is open 11am-7pm Monday-Saturday and noon-6pm on Sunday. Success will depend on both retailers and shoppers playing by the new rules: “New measures have been implemented to help ensure the health and safety for all who enter the Mall, including hand-sanitizing stations, touch-free interactions, frequent and intense cleanings and social distancing directions.”
Some typical services, like play areas and stroller rentals, are off-limits for now.
As for restaurants, Natick officials are looking to grease the skids to help eateries offer outdoor dining, and serve alcohol, perhaps in creative ways for those that don’t currently have much in the way of outdoor territory. Discussion took place at Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, where James Freas, director of community & economic development, discussed a 4-step process to handle incoming applications. Those requiring expanded alcohol licensing would be brought before the Board of Selectmen each week. Four applications had already made their way to Freas as of this past Monday.
The Board wondered about whether Natick Common might be in play, and it is, though the logistical challenges (the intersection, restaurants aren’t located right on it), would make its use probably very temporary.
The focus is more on the downtown grid of streets, where accommodations for expanded outdoor dining and drinking could be allowed on sidewalks, streets and parking lanes if coordinated. A transportation design team has been hired to help the town sort this out. Freas says town officials want such space to be allocated fairly and safely, and to be attractive, so as to draw in those who might otherwise be unsure of venturing back into the world. The town will try some things, and change them up if they aren’t working, said Freas, who repeatedly emphasized this is all temporary.
BoS member Karen Adelman-Foster said “The prospect of trying out some tactical suburbanism is a cool one,” and could bode well for future creative use of public space. Freas concurred that this sort of experimentation is a key part of the process.
As we’ve reported, Lookout Farm has big plans to shake up its dining and drinking layout beyond the Taproom and other small venues on its property. The BoS approved the plans during its Monday meeting, and next up with fire inspection of the grilling area.
Among the first to announce its Phase 2 plans was Buttercup, which reopened for outdoor dining on Tuesday, June 9 from 4:30-9pm, and will offer this service Tuesdays-Saturdays. Take-out and pickup are available 12-8pm Tuesday-Saturday.
Morse Tavern hopped right on the opportunity to offer patio dining on Monday and had a good crowd, albeit with forced space between parties. You’ll need to call to make reservations.
Ziti’s, too, says it’s ready for outdoor seating.
Among others looking to get permission for outdoor dining: Frescafe, which re-opened for curbside and take-out this past week at its Rte. 135 location.
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