Despite controversy over a fee the city of Boston will charge restaurant owners for outdoor dining setups in the city's North End, dozens of businesses still applied for the program.
Small businesses and restaurants in the city are able to apply for a temporary, seasonal license for outdoor dining, a program that started during the pandemic.
The rest of the city has already begun the outdoor dining season, but the North End is set to start in May.
Restaurant owners in the neighborhood have been battling with Mayor Michelle Wu over a $7,500 fee, arguing that no other part of Boston is subject to the same fee for outdoor dining spaces. In addition, restaurants will be charged $458 a month for each parking spot used in their outdoor dining areas.
Wu countered by offering hardship waivers to restaurants that fit certain criteria, and prorated rates to businesses that don't want to take advantage of outdoor dining for the full five-month season. It wasn't enough for some restaurant owners, who vowed legal action.
But it seems many North End business owners decided participation in the temporary outdoor dining program, which is a pilot now entering its third year, was worth the price tag. The city said on Tuesday that they received 67 outdoor dining applications and 28 hardship waivers for North End restaurants. Twenty-three of those hardship waivers were approved.
"These applications are in various stages of review and City staff are actively working to approve these applications in time for the program's May 1 start date. We are looking forward to a safe and vibrant outdoor dining season in the North End and the rest of the City. The Mayor and City staff are grateful for the continued partnership of the North End's residents and business owners," a city spokesperson wrote in a statement.
More coverage of the North End outdoor dining saga
The extra fees in the North End are meant to mitigate some of the area's unique challenges in offering outdoor dining. The neighborhood is known for its restaurants, but it is also known for its narrow streets and limited parking. The mayor's office said residents have raised concerns about issues like the lost parking, the noise and disruption from outdoor diners late at night, and problems with things like trash pickup.