78°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

North End restaurants charged $7,500 for outdoor dining services

Brothers+Pat+and+Frank+Mendoza+%28L-R%29+stand+proud+outside+of+Monica%26%238217%3Bs+Trattoria%2C+a+restaurant+they%26%238217%3Bve+owned+in+the+North+End+of+Boston+for+26+years.
Dom Ferreira
Brothers Pat and Frank Mendoza (L-R) stand proud outside of Monica’s Trattoria, a restaurant they’ve owned in the North End of Boston for 26 years. Photo by Dom Ferreira / Photography Editor

Boston’s North End restaurant owners participated in a program during the pandemic that allowed them to apply for a temporary license which would allow them to offer outdoor dining services. However, from May 1, these restaurants will be paying a hefty $7,500, along with a $458 charge per month for each parking spot used as part of their outdoor dining areas. The North End already faces issues in relation to limited parking, and this is plausible when we look at the city’s point of view for implementing the charge. Also, according to the Boston Herald, a particular area of Hanover Street will be made a one-way between Cross and Richmond Streets during the outdoor period. A committee consisting of community members and local officials will decide the exact changes under this new implementation. Parking changes for residents include parking in garages which will be open 24/7—drivers will be given a sticker and an attendant will double-check these stubs upon entry at the garage entrance.
Owners of restaurants in the North End were quick to voice their opinions and immediately felt it was unfair. The program was started during the COVID-19 pandemic to encourage outdoor dining to reduce widespread transmission, but restaurants are now being charged heftily for their participation. This is completely understandable, as outdoor dining made a lot more sense for people wanting to head outside for a meal, and it may have prompted many of these owners to set up outdoor dining specifically for the purpose of customers to enjoy a meal at their restaurant without having to be confined to the inside space.
The city’s point of view can also can be justified as Mayor Michelle Wu stated: “The concerns here are very serious and real about the impacts when there are 90-plus restaurants all together on just a few streets. We want to do it all. We want to support both the restaurants and the neighbors and that means we have to have some way to address the extra impacts here.” The problem was clearly borne due to the North End’s tight streets and lack of outdoor parking, which may have restricted certain local residents from getting parking spots due to customers of these restaurants. This is a tricky situation, where the infrastructure is almost impossible to change due to the busy nature of the area.
While the city’s point of view stands strong as well, we must look at the changes and struggles these restaurants faced during the pandemic. Many of them probably went out of business and the ones who survived have spent both money and long hours restructuring their operations to make sure that they too don’t go out of business. After a difficult period, now is when they are able to thrive, as we are on the brink of defeating COVID-19 and customers are more comfortable with dining outside without the paranoia of being affected by the pandemic.
As it stands, both the frustration of these restaurant owners and the city’s reason for the imposition of the charges seems justifiable. There are residents who could also be involved in some way to help aid this change. Residents are also a part of the North End implementation and could possibly be asked to share the charge along with the restaurant owners. In my opinion, this way it ensures that the bill is equally split for the benefit of both parties. While there is heavy resistance from the owners, the decision stands and is ready to charge the restaurants starting May 1 until Sept. 30, if there is an extension on the implementation.

About the Contributors
Preetan Natesh, News Writer
Dom Ferreira, Photo Editor