North Adams to open Center Street for dining

An area of Center Street in North Adams will be blocked off to allow outdoor dining, providing a valuable opportunity for restaurants with limited space to serve more customers safely under the phased COVID-19 reopening regulations.

NORTH ADAMS — The city will be closing a portion of Center Street beginning Monday to usher in outdoor dining.

In a press release from the Mayor's Office on Thursday, the city stated that Center Street will be blocked off at the St. Anthony's Drive parking lot to make space for outdoor dining. Traffic flow will be routed through the lot.

The west end of Center Street, which faces State Street, will remain a two-way road. To the east, the street will be one-way.

In the release, Mayor Thomas Bernard said the idea of increased outdoor dining has been discussed "for several years now," and the phased reopening of Massachusetts communities gives North Adams the opportunity to explore those plans.

"This collaborative effort is intended to bring restaurants much needed relief by allowing them expanded and safe opportunities to return to service, and to provide North Adams residents the opportunity to enjoy a good meal in the open air," said North Adams Chamber of Commerce President Glenn Maloney.

Matt Tatro, the owner of Grazie, worked closely with city government on the decision. He said that the move on Center Street was “our only possible way to successfully do some outdoor dining.” Grazie has several tables outside, but Tatro said that these function more as waiting areas and would not substitute for the reduced capacity indoors.

“We didn't ever anticipate any outdoor dining, given our proximity to the downtown," he said. "Our location doesn't really call for that.”

The mayor set up a Zoom meeting about the plan with downtown restaurateurs who want to have a say in outdoor dining arrangements, Tatro said.

One of those establishments was the Freight Yard Pub and Restaurant, which has its own outdoor seating arrangements on State Street. Owner Colleen Taylor called the Zoom meeting a “very positive encounter” and said that she is happy for the restaurants who can use the outdoor seating.

“We do realize that making it through this transition is important to all small businesses,” she said. “If there's a way we can support them, we should do it.”

The venture is being referred to as a “pilot program for outdoor dining.” Town government and downtown businesses are currently working on applications for “ADA accessible outdoor dining amenities on Eagle, Holden, and Main streets,” according to the statement.