Boston, restaurant owners, reach deal on al fresco dining

March 29, 2022 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said Tuesday a compromise has been reached with restaurant owners in the city’s North End over a $7,500 fee for the right to offer outdoor dining on neighborhood streets this summer.

Many restaurants had balked at the fee, even threatening a lawsuit, calling it discriminatory because eateries in other areas of the city were not required to pay it.

Wu defended the payments, saying they are needed to cover city costs because of the high density of restaurants in the historically Italian North End, and the resulting unique quality-of-life problems associated with traffic, pedestrians, trash collection and rodent control in the area.

The city started allowing restaurants to offer al fresco dining two years ago as a way to boost business during the coronavirus pandemic.

The compromise was reached after meetings with business leaders, she said at a news conference.

“I am grateful to our restaurant owners, who recognized that to make this work in this neighborhood ... we need to have a specifically tailored program for our North End residents,” she said.

Restaurants will be allowed to pay the fee over a period of months rather than in one lump sum, she said.

The city will also allow restaurants to apply for hardship waivers to lower the fees, for example if they do not have a liquor license, if they are located on a smaller side street that gets less foot traffic, and if they have a smaller outdoor dining area.

“I just want to thank, first, Mayor Wu,” said Philip Frattaroli, whose company owns several restaurants and attended the mayor’s news conference. “She gathered a group of us who didn’t all agree, she listened to our concerns, responded to them, and helped us all get to where we need to be.”

Still, not everyone was happy. A group of North End restaurant owners stood outside the room where the new conference was held, loudly demanding to be let inside so their voices could be heard.