Mayor Wu: City open to ‘hardship waivers’ for North End restaurants facing $7,500 outdoor dining fee

The next round in the fight over outdoor dining in Boston’s North End played out inside Boston’s City Hall on Tuesday.

That’s where Mayor Michelle Wu held a news conference “to address this year’s program for outdoor dining in Boston’s North End.”

Mayor Wu now says the city is open to giving waivers to certain North End restaurants who might not be able to afford a $7,500 city fee to set up for outside dining. The North End is the only section of city where the fee is being applied. The mayor says its a quality of life issue for North End residents and unique to that neighborhood.

“Equity does not mean equality,” said Mayor Wu about the North End only fee. “I know, we all want the same thing. We all want each neighborhood to be safe and thriving.”

Businesses granted hardship waivers could see the fee dropped to $3,500 to $5,000. The city said it is also open to allowing businesses to take part in the outdoor dining program for fewer months, and pay $1,500 a month, and not a lump sum for the entire season.

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.

Mayor Wu was joined by State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, State Senator and City Councilor Lydia Edwards, and two North End restaurant owners inside the Eagle Room near the mayor’s office, supporting the updated plan.

Outside the Eagle Room, other North End business owners were protesting the fee. They were prevented from entering the Eagle Room by several Boston Police officers.

The contentious issue has been playing out for several weeks, since the mayor announced plans to allow for the return of outdoor dining across the city, except for the North End.

The City of Boston then announced North End restaurants were eligible to take part in the program, if they agreed to a $7,500 fee and to a later opening for outdoor patios in that area.

A city spokesperson told Boston 25 that the changes were made after feedback from the North End community.

Some restaurant owners then threatened the city with a lawsuit.

“In the city of Boston there are 1100 restaurants, our mayor is targeting 100,” said George Mendoza, owner of Vinoteca di Monica.

Mayor Wu responded last week by threatening to rescind the offer altogether for the North End.

“Many North End residents have called for the ending of outdoor dining altogether in the neighborhood,” Mayor Wu wrote. “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.”

“She better roll up her sleeves because we’re ready,” said Jorge Mendoza, owner of Monica’s. “She’s going to hear from our attorney in the form of a letter first and then we are going to sue the city of Boston for the unjust treatment of Italian businesses here in the North End.”

The deadline to apply for this year’s outdoor dining program pilot is April 10th.

Boston 25 News will be at the mayor’s news conference. Watch for live updates on Boston 25.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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