North End restaurants face fine to keep outdoor dining

Outdoor dining in North End (Photo by Mild Laohapoonrungsee/BU News Service)

By Taylor Donnelly
Boston University News Service

North End restaurants have two options: either open their patios with a payment of $7,500 to the city or not provide outdoor dining for the summer season.

Boston’s North End is the only neighborhood in the city where restaurants are required to pay $7,500 to renew their outdoor dining license. Outdoor dining opened across the city last Sunday.

According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office, the fee for indoor dining can be paid in monthly installments and participants will only pay for the months they have the outdoor dining (if they choose not to participate in the full season).

The city announced that they will also consider altering the cost under special circumstances. “The city will determine whether an establishment qualifies for a discount based on their location, the size of their patio space, and if the establishment does not have a liquor license.”

“Expanding a restaurant onto a street may not seem like a big deal in other parts of the city, but it’s a big deal in the North End,” said Aaron Michlewitz, State Representative of Boston, in the city’s press release.

Restaurants in the North End, such as L’Osteria, who own their own patios will not be affected by this new license requirement.  “We have our own patio, before COVID, that is attached to the restaurant. It opens on May 2nd,” said Clara Reyes, a hostess at L’Osteria on Salem St.

Some North End restaurants have gathered against this fee. In a statement on Twitter from The North End Restaurant Community, they request, “not to be charged program fees or monthly fees, and that we be permitted to extend our outdoor seating permanently to September 30th, and to be able to do so without restriction such as ‘Good Behavior.’”

The “North End Restaurant Community,” states that having an option to outdoor dine, “adds to the cultural experience of many tourists.” 

According to Trip Advisor, the North End is one of the top tourist destinations in Boston and brings in tourists to eat at their number of Italian restaurants

North End restaurants that had a patio during the COVID-19 pandemic are deciding whether to pay the fee to reopen it for the 2022 Summer season. Some restaurants, such as Cantina Italiana, are willing to pay the fee to provide more space for customers. 

“We were open for outdoor seating during COVID, and closed it early last year, in October,” said Omar, manager at Cantina Italiana. “This year we are going to open the outside part in May and pay the fine.”

According to the city of Boston’s “2022 Temporary Outdoor Dining Program,” there are new restrictions on North End’s outdoor dining policies. The city states that they are able to, “ask the licensee to remove their patio at any time.” 

Other caveats of the agreement include, the temporary suspension of outdoor dining due to weather, no entertainment including music or tv, and animals, except service dogs, are not allowed. The program states new safety measures including, accessible ramps, guidelines for tables, and legal barriers for patios. 

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