According to the City of Boston, restaurant owners in Boston’s North End must pay a fee of $7,500 to participate in this year’s outdoor dining program.
Small businesses and restaurants in the city can apply for a temporary, seasonal outdoor dining license, a program launched during the pandemic. The fee is specific to the North End, known for its restaurants and eateries, but also for its narrow streets and limited parking.
In addition to the $7,500, restaurants will be charged $458 per month for each parking space used in their outdoor dining areas.
“Honestly, I find it offensive,” said Frank Mendoza, owner of Monica’s Trattoria. “I think it’s crazy that we’re the only neighborhood in the city of Boston that’s being billed over $15,000 for outdoor seating.”
The city said the fee will be used to pay for mitigation programs and services to help address problems al fresco dining could bring to the area.
Other notable differences for the neighborhood include a later start date for the program.
The start date for restaurants in the North End is May 1, a month after other Boston neighborhoods. The city says the program for the North End will end on September 5 but could be extended to September 30 depending on compliance. In other parts of the city, the program will run until sometime in December.
North End restaurant owners have expressed frustration at the unique circumstances they are facing.
“The reason it’s frustrating for us in the North End is that we’re treated differently and I don’t care who you are but there should be a level playing field for everyone and so far this isn’t a level playing field we are worried,” said Damien DiPaola, owner of Carmelinas.
Since an average patio takes up two seats, DiPaola estimates it costs an additional $1,000 a month on top of the $7,500. That cost, he said, some small restaurants just can’t afford.
“They just listened to a couple of local residents who complained about everything and here we are now and we think that’s discriminatory, we feel like it’s targeting the North End,” DiPaola said.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu addressed some of the concerns raised Friday night.
“The impact of al fresco dining on this neighborhood is unique because of this density,” she said. “We want to make sure everyone has the resources to have a safe, hygienic and clean experience and that it really addresses all the needs that we see.”
Money raised from the fees goes towards rodent and traffic control and additional street cleaning.
The closing times will also be different than last year. This time the city says that between Sunday and Thursday the closing time starts at 21:30 and the last customer has to leave by 22:00. On Fridays and Saturdays, the closing time is shifted by one hour to 10:30 p.m
Park changes have also been announced. There will be multi-storey car parks around the North End neighborhood for residents to park their cars in. The garages will be open 24 hours a day. All drivers receive a sticker that is checked by a supervisor in the workshop.
Those restaurants approved for al fresco dining in 2021 will have to reapply for the 2022 season, according to the city.