Haverhill Restaurants Set to Reopen with Outdoor Dining This Week; City Assesses Individual Needs

Issa Zefta, left, and Michael Middleton of Maria’s Family Restaurant prepared an alley space for outdoor dining during the pandemic. (WHAV News photograph.)

Maria’s Family Restaurant, 81 Essex St., Haverhill. (WHAV News photograph.)

Haverhill restaurants begin their limited reopenings this week with outdoor dining. Among them, Maria’s Family Restaurant plans an expansive dining area on three sides of its building.

Established in 1989, Maria’s of 81 Essex St., has been limited like others to takeout and delivery service since business closures were ordered after the COVID-19 outbreak. Gov. Charlie Baker, however, said Saturday there has been enough improvement to allow lifting some restrictions on restaurants, retail shops, child care facilities and hotels. Maria’s Issa Zefta walked WHAV through the restaurant’s outdoor layout.

“We have both sides of the restaurant—Essex Street, Locust Street, and as well as the alley that we just opened up this year. We finished putting it together last year,” he explained.

Zefta said Maria’s plans to open tomorrow to give it time to receive delivery of new tables, chairs and umbrellas. He said the menu will reflect the season.

“We’re going to have a limited menu. We’re adding a lot of seafood because of summertime, Also, we have a couple of new dishes that we will be creating for that like a couple of new salads,” he said.

As of Friday night, Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini said 21 restaurants have applied for outdoor dining. He said all were in line for immediate approval in, what he described as, “the easiest process ever.” Zefta agreed city officials did their best to make the reopening work.

“They listened to all our needs. They understand and try to the best they can to give us as much seating capacity to be able to continue the business.”

Fiorentini said, “Where there was room, we approved them. Where the sidewalks were too narrow, we are putting up Jersey barriers, letting people dine on the sidewalk and walk around them. Where there is no space, we are blocking off part of the street.”

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