Al Fresco Dining Returning To Belmont Center But Only Three Restaurants Want Spaces

Photo: Il Casale is one of three restaurants seeking sidewalk dining this summer in Belmont Center

A hubbub is happening in Boston’s North End where restaurant owners and their employees are upset that certain historic neighborhoods like theirs face more restrictions and limits on outdoor summertime dining than other less frequented parts of the city.

There are no such complaints from eateries in Belmont as the Select Board approved earlier in March al fresco dining on sidewalks and in designated parking spaces walled off by jersey barriers along Leonard Street.

But unlike Boston where there’s a voluminous number of applications for sidewalk and curbside space, Belmont Center has seen a dramatic drop in spaces being set aside for dining from 15 last year to just six this coming summer, according to Glen Clancy, town engineer.

The biggest impact on space requests is the recent closure of the popular Trinktisch Beer Hall and from eateries that don’t feel the need to have an outdoor option, said Clancy.

Two of the eateries, sister establishments il Casale and the Wellington, have reduced their ask to just two parking slots each as “they want to have a more impactful look to their spaces,” said Deran Muckjian, owner of Toy Shop of Belmont, and president of the Belmont Center Business Association.

The other eatery seeking added space is Stone Hearth Pizza. There will be one dedicated area in Cushing Square for Savinos Grill on Common Street and the town will support a request from Watertown’s Conley’s Pub since the roadway up to the restaurant’s curb is located in Belmont.

Muckjian said early in the year he sought feedback from merchants and restaurants “and everyone is comfortable” with the smaller plan for outdoor dining.

Unlike past years, the establishments will be footing the bill installing, then removing the jersey barriers.

In addition, the season has been reduced from the Mothers’ Day weekend in May to Sept. 15.

Al fresco dining was established in 2020 as an attempt by the town to assist restaurants which found their indoor dining areas shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first year, Leonard Street became a single lane, one-way road – from Alexander Ave. to Channing Road – with much of the curbside set aside for chairs and tables.

But from the start, many of the Center’s brick and mortar retail businesses were less than pleased losing about two dozen parking spaces in front of their establishments. In the subsequent years, Leonard would return to a two-way road and the number of dining spaces reduced at the urging of storefront retailers.