“Restaurants will only be required to pay for the months that they choose to participate in the program.”
If you’ve been on social media these past few days and follow users who disseminate and riff on Boston headlines, then you’ve likely seen the dustup that went down last week when Mayor Michelle Wu announced a $7,500 fee for North End restaurants that have outdoor dining.
Typical reactions were completely ignorant, short on facts, and long on opinions, with few considering the situation from the perspective of those who live in that area. So now that the dust appears to have settled, we thought it was important to relay the facts of how negotiations turned out between local politicians and restaurant owners.
This just in from the city (the full guidance can be found here):
Today, Mayor Michelle Wu announced next steps for the 2022 outdoor dining programming in the North End. She was joined by State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, State Senator and City Councilor Lydia Edwards, more than 20 North End restaurant owners, and North End residents.
“I am grateful that so many of our restaurant owners see that there is tremendous value in generating the resources necessary to do outdoor dining differently this year in the North End, to do it right,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “We are going to continue to be in conversation about all the different things our neighborhoods need.”
Mayor Wu announced that the $7500 fee for outdoor dining in the North End can be paid in monthly increments. Restaurants will only be required to pay for the months that they choose to participate in the program. In addition, she also announced a process for restaurants to apply for a hardship rate based on a variety of factors. The City will determine whether an establishment qualifies for a discount based on their location, the size of their patio space, and if the establishment does not have a liquor license.
Last year, the North End was home to 77 outdoor dining patios (70 on public property) in just 0.2 square miles, compared to 51 patios in Back Bay (21 on-street), 14 in the Seaport, seven in Roxbury, six in Charlestown, and just one patio in Chinatown. The neighborhood is home to the densest concentration of restaurants in the state.
“Having over 90 liquor licenses in such a small residential community has always been a challenge, but with outdoor dining it has become particularly daunting for all of us,” State Representative Aaron Michlewitz said in a joint media statement. “Expanding a restaurant onto a street may not seem like a big deal in other parts of the city, but it’s a big deal in the North End. At the same time, we’re very grateful for the contributions and generosity of our local restaurants.”
“Outdoor dining has been a pain point for many residents in the North End. I’m glad to see us come together to try to figure things out,” State Senator and City Councilor Lydia Edwards added. “If outdoor dining is going to happen in the North End, there needs to be mitigation factors added so that it can be a place to visit and a place to live.”
Local restaurateur Nick Varano said in the statement, “I think it’s great that we can work together with the city and find a resolution that benefits us all. We have to do what’s best for the residents of the neighborhood that live there year-round. If we can have cleaner streets, more safety, and a better living environment we benefit as business owners. I’m happy we can find a way to work together.”
“Thanks to Mayor Wu and her team for hearing the concerns of small operators in the North End,” local restaurateur Phil Frattaroli added. “We share her goal of making outdoor dining in the North End safe and sustainable for residents, the City, and our small business community.”
The city also noted that “in close collaboration with residents across Boston, Mayor Wu announced a series of significant changes to the 2022 Outdoor Dining Program.” These changes include:
New closing hours;
Sunday – Thursday at 9:30 p.m.(all patrons off premises by 10:00 p.m.) and Friday and Saturday at 10:30 p.m. (all patrons off premises by 11:00 p.m.)
Updated barrier safety requirements;
Updated fire safety guidance;
New insurance requirements;
An evacuation plan
Sounds good to us.
Now, cannolis for everyone!