North End

North End Restaurants to Fight Mayor Wu's Outdoor Dining Fee

Restaurant owners in the North End will have to pay a $7,500 fee to participate in outdoor dining under a restricted timeframe

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Restaurant owners in Boston's North End are organizing to fight against hefty fees that Mayor Michelle Wu has implemented for outdoor dining exclusively in that section of the city this year.

North End restaurants will have to pay a $7,500 fee to participate in this year's outdoor dining program, according to the City of Boston. In addition, restaurants will be charged $458 a month for each parking spot used in their outdoor dining areas.

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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 fee is specific to the North End, which is known for its restaurants and eateries, but also for its tight streets and limited parking options.

Business owners in the North End have called the policy "discriminatory," and said they plan to protest it. Several North End restaurant owners will meet at 1 p.m. Wednesday to discuss their next steps to fight the fees and time restrictions.

"She's coming after us, and we're going to fight back," George Mendoza, one of the owners of Monica's Trattoria, said of Wu.

"We are going to open up for outside seating, alright? But we're going to pay like everybody else pays, OK? Zero," said Frank Mendoza, co-owner of Monica's Trattoria.

City officials said the fee will be used to pay for mitigation programs and services to manage the problems outdoor dining may bring to the area. Other notable differences for the neighborhood include a later start date for the program.

The start date for North End restaurants will be May 1, a month after other Boston neighborhoods. The program will end for the North End on Sept. 5 but could be extended until Sept. 30 depending on compliance, city officials said. Other parts of the city will see the program run until sometime in December.

North End restaurant owners have expressed frustration with the special circumstances they're facing.

Khaled Moheydeen owner of Parla, says the fees would take a huge bite out of his profits at a time when the restaurant industry is already hurting.

"People feel singled out, and this is not fair," said Moheydeen. "The labor costs, the food prices cost, everything is so much more money."

The return of outdoor dining in Boston's North End comes a month later than in the rest of the city, and business owners have learned they will now have to pay $7,500.

"The reason it’s frustrating to us in the North End is that we are being treated differently and I don’t care who you are but there should be a level fair playing field for everyone and this is not a level fair playing field as far as we’re concerned," Damien DiPaola, owner of Carmelinas said last week.

With an average patio taking up two spots, DiPaola estimates that it costs another $1,000 a month on top of the $7,500 fee. These costs, he said, are ones some small restaurants just can't afford.

“They listened solely to a bunch of residents that complained about everything and here we are right now and we do feel this is discriminatory we do feel that it’s targeting the North End," he said.

But Wu said there are reasons the North End has to be handled differently.

The return of outdoor dining in Boston is just around the corner, but restaurants in the North End have just learned they will have to wait longer and pay a fee.

"The impacts of outdoor dinning, on this neighborhood, are unique because of that density," she said. "We want to make sure that everyone has the resources available for a safe, sanitary, clean experience, and one that really addresses all the needs that we see."

The money collected from the fees will go toward rodent and traffic control and additional street cleaning.

Asked about the outcry, Wu showed no signs of backing down.

"When our residents and neighbors and restaurants are all packed together, we need a different solution for this neighborhood," she said.

The restaurant owners have signed a letter to Wu and are in talks with an attorney about legal action.

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