Boston restaurateurs will have to pay a monthly fee if they want to move forward with al fresco dining this year.
Restaurants licensed for al fresco dining will pay $399 a month if they have an liquor license and $199 a month if they don’t, Mayor Michelle Wu announced.
This is a change from the pandemic-related al fresco dining seasons outside of the North End, the only neighborhood in the city that doesn’t have the city’s permission to have street dining this year due to neighborhood concerns and ongoing infrastructure projects.
Wu last year charged a fee of just $7,500 for restaurants that could dine al fresco, while the other boroughs didn’t have to pay the fee.
This year’s fees are citywide, meaning they apply to North End restaurants licensed for private or sidewalk patios, the mayor’s chief spokesman, Ricardo Patron, told the Herald on Friday.
The fees will go toward technical assistance for hiring architects to design site plans so all restaurants will have the option of al fresco dining in the future, according to the mayor’s office.
Andy Fadous, co-owner of American Provisions and Gray’s Hall on East Broadway in south Boston, said in a press release that the return of al fresco dining will allow its restaurants to stay open later, hire more staff, while also providing common space in the mornings at night.
Boston launched its outdoor dining program out of a need to keep restaurants afloat during the pandemic, and it did. The benefits led the city to transition to this permanent program.
“For us as a small restaurant, the pandemic has forced us to get creative, and the al fresco dining program has been a critical component to our sustainability and recovery,” Fadous said. “We’ve seen changes in consumer behavior as we’ve been forced to rethink the way we use public spaces.”
Applications will be available online starting Thursday, and restaurateurs can track the progress of their application. According to the mayor’s office, professionally prepared site plans for outdoor inns must be submitted to ensure they comply with state building codes.
City officials say the goal is to open restaurant terraces as early as May 1.
“We have used what we have learned over the past few years to inform the permanent program,” Wu said in a press release, “and we are committed to working with our neighborhoods to make this program a success.”
Since the North End will not be open for street dining, officials said the city will buy back jersey barriers from neighborhood restaurateurs and relieve the cost of storing the equipment.
Restaurateurs in the city’s Little Italy voiced their disappointment during a meeting on Thursday, expressing that they feel the city is discriminating against them.
“The North End is the largest Italian community in the country. For us to be discriminated against in a situation like this I think is a mistake for Italians, I think it’s a mistake for the North End,” said Frank DePasquale, owner of several North End restaurants.