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North End restaurant owners and Mayor Wu spar over fee

Wu said that she's "prepared to rescind North End outdoor dining before the start of this season."

Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Outdoor dining on Hanover Street in the North End.

After a recent debate over an outdoor dining fee between the city and North End restaurant owners, Mayor Michelle Wu is threatening to end all outdoor dining in the neighborhood, according to a letter obtained by WCVB.

“If a critical mass of restaurant owners also believe this program is unworkable as proposed, then I am prepared to rescind North End outdoor dining before the start of this season,” Wu wrote. 

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Wu’s letter comes after the enclave’s eateries expressed deep frustration with a $7,500 fee plus monthly parking fees required for outdoor dining in the North End. The area’s restaurants also have a later start date and earlier end date for outdoor dining than the rest of the city.

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The Boston Globe reported that some establishments got legal counsel and 60 restaurant owners met with a lawyer on a Zoom call on Friday. The co-owner of Monica’s Trattoria, Frank Mendoza, told the Globe he wants to file a lawsuit by April 1 — the first day of outdoor dining for other neighborhoods of Boston.

In her letter, Wu cited residents’ complaints and “deep opposition to any form of outdoor dining” during two public community meetings as reasoning for the fee. 

She added that the North End had three times the number of on-street restaurant patios compared to the next highest neighborhood and the largest number of complaints related to “noise, congestion, rodents, and street cleanliness from outdoor dining.”

“As believers in the benefits of outdoor dining, we crafted the North End program in an effort to try one last time to strike the right balance with thoughtful spacing, time limitations, increased safety protections, and other resources necessary to mitigate the impacts on parking, trash, rodents, and public safety,” Wu wrote.

In two-tenths of a square mile in the North End, Wu said there were 77 outdoor dining patios, 70 of which were on public property. For comparison, she said Back Bay had 51 outdoor dining patios with 21 on the street.

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Currently, a Change.org petition, created by the area’s restaurant owners on Thursday to end the $7,500 fee, has over 15,000 signatures. 

“The smallest, hardworking, mom-and-pop restaurants which help keep the North End neighborhood authentic and thriving cannot endure these fees,” the petition description says.

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