Restaurants in the North End of Boston will not be allowed to offer on-street outdoor dining this year, the city announced Thursday.
The neighborhood's restaurants will be able to apply for private and sidewalk patio dining, but unlike the rest of the city, they will not be able to apply for licenses to put tables in the area's narrow streets. Furthermore, sidewalks must meet certain space requirements for patio space, and Hanover Street does not.
"We have decided this year to forgo on-street outdoor dining," Segun Idowu, Boston's chief of economic opportunity and inclusion, said to applause from North End residents in the basement of St. Joseph's Hall.
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Some restaurant owners voiced objection to the decision.
"I'm not happy," said Massimo Tiberi, owner of Arya Trattoria. "It puts us at a disadvantage with the rest of the city, you know? If you're a small restaurant like mine, and you're a customer looking to do outdoor seating, you're going to go somewhere else. You're not going to be able to sit outside."
"It's not discrimination, it's not a disadvantage, you know why? Because people come from around the world to eat in the North End," said Darlene Romano, a lifelong resident.
Like many locals, Romano thinks outdoor dining congests the narrow streets of the North End.
"Servers going back and forth. They took away our parking spots. They were out late at night," she said.
"I see both sides," said Claudia Spagnuolo, owner of Spagnuolo's Restaurant.
Not only is Spagnuolo a restaurant owner, she is also a North End landlord.
"I am neither here, nor there, so I am with the old school," she added.
Outdoor dining has been a contentious issue in the neighborhood. Mayor Michelle Wu's decision last year to charge North End restaurants a $7,500 fee to take part in the pandemic-era program, as well as monthly fees of $458 per parking space, was met with strong condemnation and litigation from the owners of some of the area's famed eateries.
Jorge Mendoza, owner of Monica's in the North End, is mad. He was among those who sued the city last year, claiming Boston was discriminating against the neighborhood. He says this latest move by the city only helps his case, directing his anger at Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.
"She is taking our competitive edge out of the picture," he said. "If you flood the city of Boston with outdoor patios, and don't give us any, we are not going to be able to compete."
Every neighborhood in Boston except the North End will offer on-street outdoor dining. Elected officials hopeful a soon-to-be assembled task force with residents, restaurant owners and stakeholders can devise an on-street outdoor dining solution for the North End in the future.