North End restaurants wanting to dine al fresco this year would have to pay a fee of over $7,500 to enroll in the program, the city says, as it offers several new changes, including one-way traffic on Hanover Street.
John Romano, the city’s North End neighborhood association, on Thursday laid out plans for the coming warm months when al fresco dining returns – but with different rules in the crowded North End, where popular Italian restaurants draw large crowds into narrow streets .
For one thing, the North End’s dining schedule is different, with al fresco dining on public pathways beginning May 1, a month later than the rest of the city, and ending in September rather than December, when others’ restaurants fourth stop.
In the North End, the quoted end date is September 5 for “bad actors” who have been warned or suspended for breaking rules, but September 30 for venues that have kept a clean record, Romano said in the virtual restaurateur meeting next Thursday.
Alfresco dining – introduced two years ago in the teeth of the coronavirus pandemic and then refined over the past two years after proving popular – is also due to end half an hour earlier in the North End, closer to 22 or 22 11pm than 10:30pm or 11:30pm for the rest of the city.
The city also laid out some parking plans, saying the 130 residents’ spots that were knocked out by courtyards will be replaced by agreements with garages.
And then there’s the $7,500 fee for each restaurant that signs up, an arrangement unique to the neighborhood and new this year. That cash, which comes in addition to parking-related fees, will stay in the neighborhood for North End-specific services, Romano said, such as cleaning the streets and sidewalks.
But several restaurateurs were less than enthusiastic about the arrangement, saying the food tax revenue they generate for the city should cover just about all of that.
“It could be costly,” said Philip Frattaroli of Lucia Ristorante, who asked if restaurants could write charitable donations and food taxes from that amount. “$7,500 might mean we can’t even make it.”
City officials said they would think about it and speak to him about it.
“I don’t think it’s fair and that it should be reconsidered,” Antico Forno’s Carla Gomes said of the cost.
The city’s Romano said the fee “is needed to address the immediate impact of this program in this neighborhood,” and is based specifically on costs determined by the city.
“I’m happy to help with parking, but the high fee doesn’t suit me,” said Jen Royle of Table Boston.
Hanover Street, the main thoroughfare through the North End, will be converted to one-way for its southernmost block, between Cross Street and Richmond Street, during al fresco dining hours. People will only be able to drive out of the neighborhood on this street, not in.