Metro, Food, Business, Newton

Restaurants Partner with City of Newton to Expand Al Fresco Dining

Newton Al Fresco, an outdoor dining collaboration between local restaurants and artists, is returning to the streets of Newton starting April 1 with more restaurants participating than ever before. 

“Al Fresco dining definitely encourages people to go out to dinner more in general—just to sit outside and enjoy the weather really draws people in,” said Aidan Wright, a manager at the Newton Centre gastropub Thistle & Leek.

The City of Newton and local restaurants embraced the long-standing tradition of al fresco dining in 2020 to continue business while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. 

Concrete barriers painted by Newton artists surround many outdoor dining spaces in the city.

“Patio seating is really desirable now, especially since the beginning of the pandemic, and now people have definitely made a mental shift towards Al Fresco-style dining even as indoor dining becomes available again,” Wright said.

With nearly 20 restaurants offering outdoor seating options through the Al Fresco initiative this summer, the City of Newton’s outdoor dining scene is getting a much-needed expansion, according to some business owners.

“Before the pandemic, there were almost no real patios in Newton,” said Arpit Patel, a manager at Baramor in Newton Centre. “Good outdoor dining options were definitely hard to come across.”

A recent Newton City Council ordinance removes capacity restrictions on outdoor dining, as long as the seats don’t block walkways. The ordinance allows restaurants to bring in more customers than ever before.

“Thistle & Leek is a very small restaurant, and the introduction of al fresco allowed us to basically double its size and revenue,” Wright said.

Though many restaurants decided to scale back their outdoor seating plans this year now that they no longer need to restrict their indoor dining capacities, the new ordinance will ensure that al fresco dining remains on Newton’s streets.

“With indoor seating available again, we aren’t going to be offering as many outdoor seating options as we did previously, but having outdoor seating available in the summer is still a major part of our operation model and allows us to double our staff, creating more job opportunities for the community,” Patel said.

Since its inception, Al Fresco has helped small businesses within the City of Newton, according to Patel, offering a much-needed lifeline during the pandemic and a fun alternative to traditional dining that will continue into the future.

“Al fresco has been a positive that’s come from the pandemic, and I really hope that the City of Newton will make this a permanent reality,” Patel said.

Featured Image By Julia Remick / Heights Editor

March 29, 2022