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Outdoor Dining Assistance Program

The Outdoor Dining Assistance program will provide eligible businesses with up to $10,000 in reimbursable expenses to be used towards the design, construction, and implementation of the 2022 outdoor dining program. The goal of this program is to help alleviate the financial impacts of implementing outdoor dining set up in compliance with local and state safety and accessibility standards. 

To answer questions about the updated program, the City is hosting a series of webinars geared toward businesses and design professionals in multiple languages to review the outdoor-dining licensing process and assistance program. 

Outdoor Dining Permitting for Design Professionals: Thursday, March 10th
For architects, surveyors, contractors, and design professionals to connect directly with City Engineering staff to answer technical questions regarding permitting requirements. (Watch Video)

Outdoor Dining Assistance Program Review- English: Thursday, March 17th
For business owners planning to apply for Outdoor dining small business assistance. Join Economic Development Staff for a review of process, eligibility, limitations, and timeline. (Watch Video)

Outdoor Dining Assistance Program Review- Spanish: Friday, March 18th
(Watch Video)

Outdoor Dining Assistance Program Review- Portuguese: Tuesday, March 22nd
(Watch Video)

Contact Information
Nick Schonberger
Economic Development Planner

Employee Directory

Guidelines & Application

Review the program guidelines before submitting an application. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

Program Guidelines in Haitian Creole and Nepali are coming soon.

Outdoor Dining Financial Assistance Program

Only businesses with active outdoor dining licenses and expenses accrued after the program start date are eligible. Businesses may only apply to the outdoor dining financial assistance program once and should submit all required documentation in the same application. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

In-House Design Assistance Program

For businesses who have not previously held an outdoor dining license, or that face additional barriers to procuring design services, the outdoor dining assistance program offers free in-house professional design assistance. It may take up to 6 weeks to be contacted due to the demand and availability of design professionals and up to 12 weeks to have a stamped plan ready for licensing submission. Businesses that are looking for more immediate design professional assistance can refer to the Design Professional Directory tab of this page.

Pre-approval for Outdoor Dining Assistance

As an additional layer of security, businesses concerned about making an upfront investment related to outdoor dining may now apply for forgivable loan pre-approval. Businesses may apply and submit copies of quotes or supply lists of expenses before they make purchases. The documents will be reviewed by city staff and a pre-approval letter from the City will be sent out. The business owner will still need to provide proof of payment and an updated contract/quote after making said purchases. Unfortunately, we're unable to provide funding upfront for businesses to make outdoor dining purchases. This is not a requirement for the outdoor dining program, but rather is an option for those that may find it helpful.

Design Professional Directory

Below is a list of Somerville-based architects in Somerville. This list is provided as a resource and in no way indicates an endorsement of the services of design professionals.

If you are a design professional and would like to be added to this list, submit an inquiry to the form below

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I apply for the Outdoor Dining Financial Assistance & In-house Design Assistance Programs? 

Outdoor Dining & Financial Assistance Application ― English (Apply) 

In-house Design Assistance Program ― English (Apply) 

Application materials in Spanish, Portugues, Haitian Creole, and Nepali are coming soon.

Are interpretation services available? 

Yes. Interpretation in Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, and Nepali will be provided by request. Need interpretation services? Submit a request to the Office of Immigrant Affairs. 

When does the outdoor dining season begin?  

Businesses with outdoor dining licenses are able to operate between April 1st and November 30th, 2022.  

Where can I apply for an outdoor dining license?  

The outdoor dining license application is available on our Citizenserve portal.  

What is the program deadline?  

The deadline to submit an application for the Outdoor Dining Financial Assistance Program or the In-house Design Assistance Program is September 1st, 2022. 

What’s new about the 2022 outdoor dining application?  

Applicants will be required to submit site-plan drawings completed by a licensed design professional. You can review the full regulations in the Licensing Resources tab of this page.

My patio was approved years ago and is on private property, do I still have to reapply? 

For those businesses with approved private outdoor seating that have already renewed their licenses for the 2022 season, you do not need to reapply.

My patio was approved years ago and is on public property, do I still need to reapply? 

Yes, all businesses, including those that were previously licensed prior to the pandemic, will need to apply for an outdoor dining license via Citizen Serve before operating.  You can review the full regulations in the Licensing Resources tab of this page.

Can I contract with an unlicensed professional who has done my outdoor dining project in the past?  

Documents for Outdoor seating licenses require that plans be made by a licensed design professional. Unlicensed persons submitting plans will have their applications denied.

Do I need a building permit to construct my outdoor patio? 

The City will continue the practice of not requiring building permits for outdoor dining structures. The City reserves the right to require a building permit if more extensive construction is required.   

For license applications for proposed overhead structures, the City will require stamped plans, with affidavits and the license of the general contractor performing the work.  For license applications with no overhead structure, stamped construction drawings and a licensed GC are not required.

Do I need to be heard by the Traffic Commission before getting approval for a parklet?

All parklets utilizing a parking space need to be approved by the traffic commission. The City is seeking the option for a general/blanket approval for a parklet to occupy a parking space (metered, time-limited, and/or permitted) immediately in front of any restaurant with an approved outdoor seating (parklet) license from the Licensing Commission. If your parklet would require relocating loading zone, bus, or ADA curb space, then a separate Traffic Commission hearing to adjust that regulated space to be a standard parking space could then be occupied by the general/blanket approval.

Can the City help contact certified designers?  

The City is unable to assist in contacting design professionals on behalf of a business. Businesses that are looking for design professional assistance can refer to the Design Professional Directory tab of this page. Businesses facing significant barriers or who haven't received an outdoor dining license in the past can apply for the In-House Design Assistance Program.

Are the businesses allowed to submit eligible expense documentation from previous years?  

No. All eligible expenses must have been incurred after March 10th, 2022. 

Can we use this forgivable loan to pay for licenses fees?  

No. Local and State licensing fees are not an eligible use of funds. 

Who should I contact about my outdoor dining assistance application? 

For questions about outdoor dining financial assistance and in-house design assistance, Contact Nick Schonberger at 

City staff are available for virtual drop-in office hours every 1st and 3rd Thursday, 3 pm - 4 pm. (Register Now).  

Submit a licensing question via this Google form, and a city staff member will get back to you shortly. 

Licensing Resources

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