Edgartown restaurants will be able to offer outdoor dining this summer, following last season’s successful (yet unexpected) test run.
At a meeting of the Edgartown select board Monday, board members voted unanimously to allow restaurants in town to apply for outdoor dining permits and associated licensing.
Town administrator James Hagerty recalled that when an executive order forced all restaurants to close their in-person operations last March, the town assembled a working group, and in June they established an outdoor dining policy which utilized sidewalks, parking lots, and other public spaces as restaurant seating.
Joe Montero, owner of 19 Raw Oyster Bar on Church Street, said his outdoor dining experience was a “great success” last year, and he can’t wait to provide the same opportunity for his customers this time around.
Michale Brisson, owner of l’Etoile in Edgartown, said his restaurant is planning to “play it cautiously” and work with the town to make sure customers have a safe and enjoyable outdoor dining experience.
“We had rave reviews last time,” Brisson said. “For us, the outdoor situation is survival.”
J.B. Blau, owner of Sharky’s Cantina in Edgartown, said he posted on Islanders Talk about a month ago, and asked folks, “After you are fully vaccinated, how likely will you be to dine indoors?”
Of the 700 people who responded, Blau said, over 300 said they would wait until outdoor dining reopens, and will buy takeout meals until that point.
“Even vaccinated people, to the tune of 300, are still relying on outdoor dining this summer,” he said.
Edgartown health agent Matt Poole said he is confident the town can keep certain sidewalks open without interfering with outdoor dining, although there are several places where seated dining would interfere with peak pedestrian traffic.
He noted, however, that there may be more flexibility this summer regarding indoor dining, so that may allow for changes to outdoor dining plans, such as potentially opening more sidewalk space.
Hagerty said all signs so far indicate a very busy summer that will require any outdoor dining elements to be carefully thought through: “I honestly think 2021 is going to be really busy — something we have never seen before. People have been cooped up, and they are going to come to the Vineyard, and they are going to come in full force.”