New Setup for Outdoor Dining?

By Chris Wangler

March 1, 2023

Could the shutdown of Moody Street return?

A few weeks after mayor Jeannette McCarthy said she lacked the authority to close the street again, she’s ready to present a new plan.


The first agenda item for the March meeting of the Waltham Traffic Commission is “Moody Street Proposal, Summer 2023.”

The agenda says “Mayor McCarthy is proposing a new setup for outdoor dining in the summer of 2023. Councilor Paz is also proposing a discussion of Moody Street this year.”


The Waltham Traffic Commission meeting will take place on Thursday, March 16 at 10:00 a.m. in the city council chamber.

When the street closure looked in jeopardy, Ward 9 city councilor Jonathan Paz organized his own meeting to solicit input from residents.

His Moody Street Town Hall will take place on Thursday, March 2 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at Government Center.

Paz’s meeting is a listening session and will not involve a plan or any votes.

Changing Course?

For three years, Moody was closed from May to October from Pine to High Streets. The initial impetus was to offer restaurants the ability to operate under strict pandemic regulations.

But with COVID over, could the shutdown return?


In mid-February, the mayor told the traffic commission that powers granted to her under COVID were gone, so she lacked the authority to close down the street.

She voiced support for the closure, but said businesses would need to approach other city authorities with permitting requests.


“If you wish to use a sidewalk, the city council is the permitting authority,” the mayor said. “If you wish to use parking spaces, the permitting authority is the traffic commission.”

The announcement was a bit of a shock, given the popularity of the street closure.

But the mayor appears to have changed course and is now exploring a new plan.


The Moody shutdown became an example for other communities, attracting visitors to dine outside while offering a pedestrian alternative to car culture. 


Restaurants invested in tents, chairs and heaters to make the most of the opportunity.

But after several years, critics wondered why the street had be closed around the clock to benefit a small number of restaurants during evenings and weekends.


For most of the time, they said, large swathes of the street remained empty and unused, taking away coveted storefront parking spaces.


Meanwhile, neighbors on abutting streets said they were fed up with visitors taking up their residential parking spaces.

The New Plan?

In previous years, with COVID still a reality, the majority of speakers during traffic commission meetings supported closing the street.

But the mayor knew some Moody small businesses opposed it. 

So she presented the commission with alternatives to the original closure, including making Moody one-way, but faced blowback from all sides.

As a result, the commission proceeded to simply repeat the previous year’s closure—and basically ignore the naysayers.

Will that happen again if the mayor lacks COVID powers? Or will she and traffic officials come up with a plan that is agreeable to both closure supporters and critics?


A few years ago, after some businesses complained about the closure, the commission made a compromise by opening up a small section of the shutdown part of Moody to cars. 


As the issue simmers, one X factor is the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival. To return for a third time at the end of September, it would be beneficial for Moody Street already to be closed. 

File photos