Photo of Senator Cassano.

State Senator

Steve Cassano

Representing Andover, Bolton, Glastonbury & Manchester

Senate Ensures Outdoor Dining Can Continue Without Interruption Through 2023


Today, Senate Democrats passed legislation ensuring outdoor dining, a practice that grew in popularity during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic allowing restaurants to safely offer their services, will continue without interruption through 2023. In doing so, an initial target for municipalities to allow outdoor dining in perpetuity was shifted from this year to 2023, a precaution taken due to the continued uncertainty posed by rapidly shifting pandemic dynamics.

"Two years ago, outdoor dining was the solution to a very difficult problem – how to keep folks safe while making sure restaurants could stay open," said State Senator Steve Cassano (D-Manchester), Senate Chair of the Planning and Development Committee, which introduced the bill. "Since then, we know outdoor dining led more folks to eat out safely and helped many restaurants weather the storm during the worst of the pandemic. Keeping it in place for another year, just as beautiful spring weather is about to bloom statewide, will be beneficial for businesses and diners alike."

House Bill 5271, "An Act Concerning The Provision Of Outdoor Food and Beverage Services and Outdoor Displays of Goods," extends laws passed last year to allow the continuation of outdoor dining and retail activities initially authorized during the pandemic. Those laws are extended through April 30, 2023.

On May 1, 2023, businesses seeking to continue outdoor dining operations would need to seek local approval. The legislation also takes action to better adhere to requirements regarding sidewalks and rights-of-way in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Studies and surveys show that outdoor dining as an option has shown strong benefits for restaurants and demand for restaurant patrons. The National Restaurant Association reported in October 2021 that, as the Delta variant spread across the United States in early fall 2021, nearly 10% more restaurants offered outdoor dining than in prior months. Restaurants found that outdoor dining comprised a significant swath of sales – 60% of restaurants saw at least 21% of sales coming from outdoor dining – and 71% of fullservice restaurants saw increased customer demand for outdoor seating.

Outdoor dining is a valuable tool to aid restaurants as the pandemic continues to cause tumult in the industry. More than 110,000 restaurants have closed nationally since the start of the pandemic, with 2.5 million jobs lost and $240 billion in revenue lost. Flexible options like outdoor dining allow businesses to diversify their offerings and appeal to cautious diners. Many downtown and central areas of towns saw outdoor offerings bring new foot traffic and interest as well.

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