North End restaurants looking to do outdoor dining this year would have to pony up a $7,500 fee to opt into the program as the city’s planning to serve up several new changes including one-way traffic on Hanover Street.
John Romano, the city’s North End neighborhood liaison, on Thursday laid out the plans for the upcoming warm months when outdoor dining returns — but with different rules in the jam-packed North End, where the popular Italian eateries draw big crowds to narrow streets.
For one, the schedule is different for the North End restaurants, with outdoor dining in public ways starting May 1, a month later than the rest of the city, and ending in September, rather than December, when other neighborhoods’ restaurants stop.
In the North End, the given end date is Sept. 5 for “bad actors” who’d been warned or suspended for breaking rules, but Sept. 30 for spots that kept a clean record, Romano said in the virtual meeting for restaurateurs on Thursday.
Outdoor dining — introduced in the teeth of the coronavirus pandemic two years ago and then refined each of the past two years after it proved popular — is also supposed to wrap up half an hour earlier in the North End, at 10 or 11 p.m. rather than 10:30 or 11:30 p.m. for the rest of the city.
The city also laid out some parking plans, saying that the 130 resident spots knocked out by patios will be replaced through agreements with garages.
And then there’s the $7,500 fee for each restaurant that opts in, an arrangement unique to the neighborhood and new this year. That cash, which comes on top of fees around parking, is going to stay in the neighborhood for North End-specific services, Romano said, such as cleaning the streets and sidewalks.
But several restaurateurs were less than thrilled by that arrangement, saying the meals-tax cash they generate for the city should just cover all that.
“It might be cost-prohibitive,” said Philip Frattaroli of Lucia Ristorante, who asked if restaurants could be able to write charitable donations and meal tax from that amount. “$7,500 might mean that we can’t even do it.”
City officials said they would mull that and get back to him about that.
“I don’t think it’s fair and that it should be reconsidered,” Carla Gomes of Antico Forno said of the cost.
Romano, from the city, said the fee “is needed to address immediate impacts in this neighborhood for this program,” and is based specifically on costs figured out by the city.
Hanover Street, the main thoroughfare through the North End, will be turned into a one-way street for its southernmost block, between Cross and Richmond streets, during the outdoor dining period. People will only be able to drive out of the neighborhood on that street, not into it.
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