By Seth Daniel
Outdoor, sidewalk seating in Chelsea was something few ever considered until the owners of Ciao! Pizza and Pasta put together a proposal to have some tables and chairs on the sidewalk in front of their newest venture, Ciao Market, on Broadway.
When Edson Coimbra and Marvin Posado conceived the idea, they did their research, had an architect draw a rough sketch, outlined their materials and did pretty much everything they could to combat what they thought would be a skeptical response from City Hall.
To their surprise, they got no pushback, but a lot of cooperation.
Now, four tables and chairs are planted on the sidewalk outside Ciao Market in the 200th block of Broadway, and it’s a statement many believe for where Chelsea is going.
“We got an e-mail back from the City saying that it was possible,” said Coimbra this week while holding down the fort in the new sidewalk seats. “That really told us this City wants these businesses and wants the businesses to grow…It sends a very positive message and creates this environment we’ve never seen before in Chelsea. This is history. It’s the first time ever. It really shows how the City officials are moving forward in Chelsea and how we can grow…This is the beginning of something really big, I think.”
City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher said they took the proposal from Ciao and have been working with the License Commission to establish a pilot program for sidewalk café seating. One stipulation is that alcohol is not permitted outdoors, but in time that could change.
“It’s great for our business community to be allowed to use our outdoor spaces from April through October,” she said.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said having such small, but noticeable changes, are the reason he felt that Broadway deserved a major investment. Already, a planning effort for the infrastructure of the area is wrapping up and money has been allocated for the improvements by the City Council.
This month, the first-ever concerts in Chelsea Square kick off, with one tonight by the Tarbox Ramblers as part of the Chelsea Prospers initiative from Chelsea Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney.
“The sidewalk seating just increases the ambiance of things and the atmosphere,” he said. “We are trying to make the area more attractive to diners, and shoppers and visitors. We want to encourage people – especially Chelsea residents – to come downtown and shop in the stores and eat in the restaurants – many of which are owned by Chelsea people. We want them all to be successful. This is one thing that we can do to encourage that.”
Some other places like Chelsea, including Everett, have recently pushed the idea of outdoor seating in its Square. Drafting regulations last month that require uniform seating and furniture (no plastic or cheap chairs), Everett is now actively seeking restaurateurs to seek outdoor dining spaces.
Coimbra said he and Posada felt that Chelsea Square is the perfect location for sidewalk seating. Few areas have such an ornately planned square made for pedestrians and having wide sidewalks and landscaped medians.
While it doesn’t come without some problems, Coimbra said he has been manning the seating since they put it out a few weeks ago. Most everyone has encouraged him, though some don’t like it.
“In the end, it really brings people into the café,” he said. “It’s a very simple thing that’s well put together. There are some people who cause problems, but most everyone feels safe. It’s not a war zone over here. It is safe on Broadway and this is working.”
Meanwhile, applications for the pilot have become available and the City and Coimbra and Posada are hoping for other owners to add seating.
“This could be just like Newbury Street all the way down Broadway in Chelsea Square,” said Posada. “I can think of three or four places that would be able to do this very easily if they wanted. We’re willing to help anyone do this too. We think we can all work together and it will be good for all of us.”