BOSTON, Mass. — Mayor Michelle Wu’s highly anticipated update on the controversial North End outdoor dining fee turned tense when some business owners said they were shut out.
The location of the news conference inside Boston City Hall was changed to a smaller room on the 5th floor about an hour and a half before it began Tuesday.
According to Mayor Wu’s office, it was attended by more than 20 North End restaurant owners and residents.
Others, who were not on an approved list, were denied entry into the room where Mayor Wu, State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, City Councilor and Senator Lydia Edwards and two North End restaurants owners were set to speak.
“This is tyranny!,” said George Mendoza, owner Vinoteca de Monica. “She picked the smallest place in the building to have a meeting because she doesn’t want us there.”
Mayor Michelle Wu later tweeted that the city hosted multiple public meetings on the topic open to everyone over the last few months.
During the news conference, Mayor Wu expressed gratitude to restaurants who have been willing to work with the city toward a solution.
“To make this work in the North End, we need a specially tailored program for our North End residents,” said Mayor Wu. “We need the resources to address some of the impacts that will contribute to even greater quality of life.”
Nick Varano, owner of Strega, took the podium to support the city’s approach.
“I think it’s great that we can work with the city to find a resolution that helps us all,” said Varano.
Mayor Wu announced Tuesday that the city will be allowing “hardship exemptions” based on a restaurants location, patio size and status of liquor license.
Wu offered restaurants the ability to pay the $7,500 seasonal charge in monthly payments of $1,500 for five months.
“We don’t want to pay a penny! We want to be treated equally,” added Mendoza, who said he has no intentions of paying anything.
Mendoza told Boston 25 News he plans to move forward with a lawsuit against the city but declined to name legal representation.
The deadline for North End restaurants to apply to participate in this year’s outdoor dining program is April 10th.
Mayor Wu said money paid by businesses will go back into North End specific services to help mitigate the impacts of outdoor dining.
She reiterated that 70 of the 77 outdoor dining patios set up in the North End last year were on public property.
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