Burlington Extends and Expands Outdoor Seating Options

March 4, 2022

Outdoor seating key to addressing health concerns while enlivening commercial spaces


Burlington, MA – The Town of Burlington approved new zoning and permitting for businesses and property owners so they can easily install seasonal outdoor seating options or maintain the outdoor seating they currently offer customers.

The proposal (Article 2) was adopted because existing outdoor seating permits are set to expire in April 2022. Those provisional permits were approved under the town’s state of emergency declaration amid the pandemic.

However, because the benefits of outdoor seating have proven to be extremely effective in addressing health concerns and promoting business activity, Burlington has now established a transparent and affordable process for business and property owners to keep or introduce seasonal bistro-style seating onsite, along sidewalks, or within protective barriers.

“Outdoor seating creates options for patrons to breathe outdoor air for health reasons or simply enjoy in the nice weather,” said Melisa Tintocalis, Economic Development Director for the Town of Burlington. “The added benefit of facilitating outdoor seating is that it can enliven storefront spaces which, in turn, tends to attract more patrons which is key as our economy rebounds.”

Burlington has seen an estimated 25% decrease in meal tax revenue compared to pre-pandemic receipts. Thus, this proposal serves as a supportive action to continue strengthening Burlington’s restaurant cluster and aid in its recovery.

Outdoor seating and dining have been a COVID bright spot for the town’s food-service sector. Extending and expanding outdoor seating is expected to provide a new channel of income not only for restaurateurs, but also for other business and property owners as the pandemic wanes and the economy recovers.

The new outdoor seating zoning and permitting ensures review of safety and context by the Economic Development, Building, Planning, Board of Health, Fire and Police Departments. Permits allow for “light installations” of outdoor seating options that do not incorporate any fixed structural changes. Seasonal outdoor seating is allowed from April 1st to November 1st. Permits will be reviewed and approved every year to ensure proper maintenance and compliance.