Heading into another season of outdoor dining in Boston, the application process has become cumbersome for many restaurants.
The issues restaurant owners in the North End are taking with Mayor Michelle Wu's plan to charge a hefty fee exclusively in that neighborhood are well-documented. But other changes affect businesses across the city.
"What's frustrating for us is that a lot of investment in time and money was made last year, and now, that investment is a lost investment," said David Doyle, owner of Tres Gatos in Jamaica Plain.
He's talking about pallets and planters, which many restaurants used to protect their patios in the past. They're no longer allowed.
Restaurants must now use more heavy-duty equipment, like Jersey barriers.
"So the barriers were a curveball for us," he said.
"They're requiring the concrete or the water-filled barriers," said Ginger Brown, executive director of the Jamaica Plain Centre/South Main Streets organization. "They're impossible to find. If you can find them, they're between $200 and $700 a barrier, and you need a minimum of eight."
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Brown sent a letter to the city asking officials to review the new outdoor dining regulations, which she says can be too bureaucratic and even be a source of racial inequity.
"A small business owner who doesn't have the money to do it, perhaps they're not a native English speaker, they're going to be intimidated by the process and not apply," said Brown. "So they end up losing out on the ability to have outdoor dining."
The city also now requires more insurance, more specific design plans, and some restaurant like Tres Gatos are still waiting for approval to even open up their patio with the season beginning in just two days.
"It makes it tough because we have to plan staffing," said Doyle.