June 26, 2020 by Carol Britton Meyer
Snug owners Ed Brown and Ellen Nally Brown are excited that they will now be able to offer outdoor dining on the tunnel cap behind the Irish pub in downtown Hingham, possibly as soon as the Fourth of July weekend.
The Selectmen granted approval last night for the Browns to use that space for six tables that can accommodate 24 diners, pursuant to a license with the town and negotiations with the MBTA. Outdoor dining will be available for lunch and dinner, seven days a week.
"This is welcome news -- it's been a long three months. We've been open for a couple of days for inside dining at a limited capacity [as part of the latest phase of the state's reopening plan], so outside dining will definitely be a plus," Ed Brown said. "We'll offer the same menu and will adhere to all social distancing and other requirements."
Two other restaurants -- The Range Bar and Grille and Vida Mexicana (Formerly, Plaza Azteca), both located on Whiting Street, also gained approval last night to either add or expand their existing outdoor dining.
All three approvals include modifications to the restaurants' liquor licenses and the ability to provide new or additional outside table service to allow food and liquor to be served. Such approvals expire Nov. 1.
'An inviting space'
"Our outdoor dining will be a nice addition to downtown Hingham and will bring more people here. It will be an inviting space for an enjoyable outdoor dining experience," Brown said. "Hopefully a ripple effect will be felt by the other businesses. Customers can come here and have a bit to eat and a drink and then hopefully do some shopping nearby."
Favorite menu offerings include The Snug's award-winning steak tips, fish and chips, a selection of sandwiches, salads, burgers, and Shepherd's Pie. "We'll have a little something for everybody," Brown said. "We're looking forward to serving lunch and dinner, pouring some beer, and getting back to normal somewhat."
There will be a festive atmosphere within the roped-off patio, featuring strings of white or clear lights, tables with umbrellas, and planters with colorful flowers from the Hingham Greenery -- which is owned by Ellen and located nearby.
"We have until Nov. 1 -- a nice few months -- to offer outdoor dining," Ed Brown said. "Our regular staff is back, so customers will see a lot of familiar faces."
Selectmen Chair Karen Johnson, who is stepping down from the board, commended Town Real Estate Counsel Susan Murphy -- who consolidated what would have been a 70-day [or longer] approval process with the MBTA into three days in order to allow the Snug to open its outdoor area as soon as possible -- for her role in helping to make this exciting dining option happen.
The town received immediate support from Rep. Joan Meschino and Sen. Patrick O’Connor, "who really went to bat for the town and for the local businesses in the Square," Johnson said. "We would not have accomplished this result for the Snug without their help."
The Browns expressed appreciation for assistance provided by the town's restaurant working group -- including Murphy's ability to gain MBTA permission so quickly -- the selectmen, and all those involved with expediting the process, and also for abutters who are supportive of adding outdoor dining and The Snug's loyal customers who have ordered takeout during the past three months and will now be able to enjoy inside and outdoor dining there.
Thanks to HDA executive director
Brown also expressed appreciation for the tireless hard work and efforts of Hingham Downtown Association Executive Director Lynn Barclay in supporting the downtown businesses in their reopening efforts and in keeping the Hingham community informed. "Downtown Hingham is a special spot, and we're looking forward to getting going again. We're happy to see the downtown area busy," he said.
Selectman Joseph Fisher commented about how the recently-approved outdoor dining opportunities are bringing people back to downtown Hingham, which benefits all the merchants. (The Square Cafe is also offering outdoor dining on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant and La Petite Maison.)
Barclay is pleased that downtown Hingham can now offer outdoor dining. "This is really the shot in the arm that we needed to help revitalize our downtown. We are so thrilled to now have two restaurants in the Square that offer outside dining," she said. "This will really create a cool vibe for downtown Hingham, and will hopefully attract people to come enjoy lunch/dinner and spend some time visiting our shops during a time when these businesses need it the most."
Vida Mexicana/The Range
Back to the other two restaurants that gained approval for their outdoor dining plans last night -- Vida Mexicana has held outdoor events in its parking lot, most notably Cinco de Mayo celebrations, but otherwise did not have regular outdoor dining. The plan, which includes 13 four-top tables with umbrellas -- for a total of 52 diners -- calls for using a portion of their back parking lot adjacent to the back bar and kitchen area. The restaurant owners are expecting this outdoor option to provide "a great dining experience."
The Range got the go-ahead to increase their outdoor dining footprint to allow for 40 more diners by placing seating on what is now the driving range, which will move to a different location.
To avoid diners gathering in the outdoor areas to wait for tables, the restaurant will take phone numbers and call patrons -- who will wait in their cars -- when their tables are ready.
The next step is for the selectmen's office to file these approvals by email to the town clerk today. Once the restaurant owners receive confirmation that the plans have been filed, they can open their outdoor seating whenever they're ready. All approvals are part of an expedited process that falls under state COVID-19 regulations.
Johnson also expressed appreciation for the hard work of restaurant working group members -- including Senior Planner Emily Wentworth, Building Commissioner Michael Clancy, Hingham Police Officer Jeffrey Kilroy, Hingham Fire Marshal Chris DiNapoli, and Executive Health Officer Susan Sarni -- and for Police Chief Glenn Olsson's role in reviewing the outdoor restaurant proposals.
"This group, with the help of Susan Murphy, came up with a comprehensive Outdoor Table Service Policy for the town and an online application and have been incredibly diligent in working with applicants so they can get up and running in a manner that does not interfere with neighboring homes or businesses and is compliant with COVID-19 regulations," Johnson told the Hingham Anchor. "I am amazed by their hard work and cooperation to facilitate outdoor dining in Hingham."
For information about making reservations and for days and hours for outdoor dining, contact the individual restaurants.