After weeks of dueling press conferences, shouted “godfather” lines and vows of lawsuits over being able to churn chicken meat outside without paying a fee, the number of North End restaurants bidding for al fresco dining approached last year’s Total pre-charge.
Mayor Michelle Wu’s administration said Tuesday that 67 of the Old Italian Quarter’s restaurants have applied for the outdoor dining program, which this year offers a fee of just $7,500 for neighborhood services for the first time North End includes.
That’s compared to the 77 the city said attended last year when there was no fee for them.
When the city suddenly announced this new rule a few months ago, frustration boiled over among restaurateurs, prompting some of them to swear a lawsuit that has not materialized at the time.
A group of restaurant owners began protesting the mayor, joining the existing group of people who were demonstrating outside her home and town hall against the city’s vaccination policy.
Wu then said the city would allow “hardship waivers” depending on the size of the restaurant and location in the neighborhood, potentially reducing the fee for certain restaurants by a few thousand dollars.
Wu unveiled this in a press conference with some pro-administration North End restaurant owners, hoping it was an offer the rest couldn’t refuse. Wu’s administration said the fee was primarily a response to North End residents who have balked at the clutter and noise of al fresco dining in recent years.
But the reaction to the behind-closed-door press conference was sharp, as the anti-Wu restaurant owners shouted a reversed version of the famous “Godfather” line: “It’s business and it’s personal.”
The anti-Wu side then held its own press conference again, further announcing a lawsuit alleging discrimination and saying the changes were not welcome.
Ultimately, Wu’s office said Tuesday, 28 of the 67 applications came with hardship waivers, and the city granted 23 of them.
“These applications are in various stages of review, and city officials are actively working to approve these applications in time for the program’s May 1 start date,” the administration said. “We look forward to a safe and vibrant al fresco dining season in the North End and the rest of the city. The Mayor and City staff are grateful for the continued partnership of North End residents and business owners.”