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Not all North End restaurants will have to pay full $7,500 fee for outdoor dining, Wu says

Varano supports mayor's proposal

Nick Varano supporting the mayor's plan.

Mayor Wu today announced changes in the fee plan for North End dining: Restaurants can pay month by month to put tables on public sidewalks and parking spaces and small restaurants, restaurants without liquor licenses and those not on the main drags of Hanover and Salem streets can get "hardship" reductions in the fees that meant to pay for extra trash pickup and safety measures in the restaurant-dense neighborhood.

At a press conference at which she was supported by state Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, state Sen. Lydia Edwards and several restaurant owners, Wu said the fees reflect the unique nature of the North End - which had more than 80 restaurants extending their dining areas to sidewalks and parking spaces last year, far more than anywhere else in the city, in a neighborhood with narrow and densely packed and populated streets.

Under the new program, restaurants with liquor licenses on Hanover and Salem streets can pay $1,500 a month for the right to expand onto sidewalks and parking spaces - so they don't have to pay the fully $7,500 fee up front or for an entire five-month program. Smaller restaurants or those on other streets can apply for reductions, she said.

Wu said those unique demands require more intensive city services. And she said there is nothing unusual about treating the North End differently, because the city tailor its services differently in different neighborhoods depending on their unique needs. "Equity doesn't mean equality across the board," she said, possibly referring to a Joan Vennochi column about her supposed equity problem.

Michlewitz, who lives in the North End, said residents love their restaurants, that the restaurants are part of what makes the neighborhood what it is, but that last year's experience showed densely packed dining landscape proved "unworkable" for many residents, who complained of everything from the loss of parking spaces to increased trash and rats.

"Our public space in the North End is more valuable than anywhere else because of how little space we actually have," he said, adding that the religious societies that are returning their festivals to the North End this year already had to pay fees for using the streets.

Restaurant owner Nick Varano, who grew up in the North End, praised Wu for trying to reach agreement with restaurant owners, and said her proposal could be a win for both residents and restaurant owners. Residents get cleaner, safer streets and the restaurants get a chance to expand dining in "the greatest inner-city Italian neighborhood in the country."

He added that if the program works, nice-weather outdoor dining could become permanent. "We can have this for a longer time,f for years to come," he said. "If we don't, it's going to be something we lost.:

Philip Frattaroli, whose family has long run restaurants in the neighborhood also supported the plan.

Not all North End restaurant owners suddenly fell in love with the plan. In fact, the mayor's office moved the press conference from its originally planned location in the City Hall atrium, which has the acoustics of a giant concrete box, where just a couple of screamers could drown out Wu and Varano, to the Eagle Room, where the mayor can and did order the thick doors shut to limit protesters, who went to the mayor's office to yell at the help.

Wu added that the brouhaha over the fee highlighted for her that Boston needs to do a better job on rodent control, trash pickup and pedestrian safety across entire city.

Neighborhoods: 

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Comments

Charge an extra $5 per table to eat on the patio and say it's for compliance with city regulations. (AKA, The Verizon method.) No extra fee to eat in the dining room. Make sure to note this when seating people.

They'll easily recoup the $1500/7500 and people who don't want the surcharge will eat indoors as normal.

If anyone complains, blame it on the mayor or the neighbors.

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Voting closed 69

Great idea and it reminds people who is imposing this fee.

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Is that the right thing to do when we aren't yet sure that the pandemic is really over?

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But if the city wanted to focus on respiratory diseases, they shouldn't charge any patios fees and should ban/reduce indoor dining entirely -- neither are things that appear to be under consideration.

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Totally shady move to change to a smaller room and not allow certain restaurant owners into a conference she knew was going to be controversial. Pack the room with supporters. Her logic for the fee is off. Aren’t there tons of outdoor dining options throughout taking up parking spots on the street? Aren’t there several neighborhoods in the city with more frequent than weekly trash pickups? Should those neighborhoods pay higher property tax? Nick Verano has more money than God. Likely he could pay the $7500 for all the Hanover street restaurants and never notice.

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Voting closed 49

Wu needs better advisers. She's making a lot of unforced errors.

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https://www.facebook.com/catherine.vitale.3/videos/3180610405550976

Catherine, Shana, David Rolde with some of the disaffected N End business owners

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These are the same jerks who spend their days disturbing the peace in my neighborhood. I wonder what their next tyrannical Asian-American mayor issue will be.

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For someone who railed about police budgetary issues, Wu seems to have no problem throwing well paid bodies at a few protesters.

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Protecting our public officials from potential violent harassment by conspiracy theorists seems like a good use of public funds.

Would you prefer they be off sitting in their car eating donuts at some useless construction detail? Or charging a full day of an ot for testifying in court for 30 minutes?

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Not the taxpayer, fyi.

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I'm aware. Forgive me for not specifying public projects, where details are mandatory by law and taxpayers are paying the bill

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Details that involve street work performed by companies employed by the city are still paid by the city. Each penny for street work that is done for the city - no matter whose pocket receives the cash - comes from tax money.

Police details that accompany work done on the water system comes from the non-tax tax paid by every person (directly or through rent) for water.

Ultimately all of the costs of details are passed on and down. Meanwhile Boston police enjoy some of the highest pay for work that could be done for far less cost.

The fact that in the majority of states the lack of police details proves that in Massachusetts police details are an unnecessary cost to everyone.

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Eh, construction details are rolled into project cost and then paid for by future tenants as part of rent. Detail costs run into the hundreds of thousands on most big projects so it's no small expense. You can bet it adds to housing prices.

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You have that nut Dianna Ploss harassing everyone with her conspiracy theories and racism.

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I don’t believe even the deepest troller can find any fault in that guy’s argument.

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Wu could say the sun is out and they'd start yelling.

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I'm unable to choose a side on this issue or engage in meaningful debate. It's not that I'm unable to make educated choices or have an opinion on the matter, but the main issue is that I don't live in the North End, I've never owned a restaurant and I've never held elected office in a city where the constituents demand solutions for problems that either the government or the business community have inflicted upon them.

What I do understand is that $1500/month translates to a fee of $50/day and if you're unable to afford that fee then your business model is all wrong, you're not very good at running a business in one of the most popular areas of one of the wealthiest regions in the United States, or you're just a cheapskate.

Thumbs up for Modern Pastry.

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And moreover, restaurants get additional tables ($) for their money. It's not as if they give up their dinning rooms.

Any restaurant which is constrained by space would gladly pay $1500/month for a few extra tables, particularly since there's no lease or other obligation.

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That is the offensive aspect. The owners are getting more tables and therefore potentially more profit for DOING NOTHING!

The beauty of capitalism is supposed to lie in its ability to push us toward doing what is in our self-interest - provided there is strong enough middle person to help us negotiate between our conflicting interests. Somehow that should give rise to the sea that lifts all boats.

The restaurant owners have an interest in making a profit. The residents have an interest in quality of life. But the owners want to earn that extra profit, making an already frequently noisy area more noisy, without giving one blessed saint's consideration to the people who live there.

That is as stinky and noxious as fish that is too old.

I agree that Modern is good but Maria's was best. I'm glad she closed her shop before Covid hit. She deserved to retire on a high note. I loved the signs in her shop. Maria's was the perfect combination of delicious food and smart aleck proto-feminism.

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I think the issue is less the fee itself and more that a) It isn’t being charged to restaurants in any other neighborhoods even when they are occupying street space and b) We were giving away the parking in these spaces for free.

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Plus she’s talking about the city’s budget being stretched while allocating $8m for free MBTA busses.

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My feelings are that some of the more business-minded folks understand both the fee and their position of privilege by having a fully licensed establishment there but good luck explaining that to a person who’s not making the big bucks or fame like Nick Varano is. After years of bragging about having a place in the North End they suddenly exposed as schmucks who can’t make money without government subsidies.

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50$ here, 50$ there. Pretty soon you run out of fifty dollar bills. If you think this is a money thing for everyone, you couldn’t be any further from truth. It’s about fairness and being taken advantage of.

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This brouhaha highlights the need for better thought out proposals in the first place.

Also why is being born in the North End relevant to anything?

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The restaurants involved in this negotiation realize they are playing the long game and looking at a potentially permanent bonanza.

Meanwhile, we still have never had a full discussion of what the best use for all this apparently “available” public space. What about wider sidewalks? More trees? Wider sidewalks AND more trees? Public benches? Parklets?

It is absolutely a false choice to say this should be either restaurants or parking. Unfortunately for the public, this is the narrative we have left after the emergency covid accommodations, and there has never been public engagement on the overall question.

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Closing the doors to business owners who don’t support the Mayor’s plan feels shady to me. If they can’t, for whatever reason use a larger meeting space, is the city not obliged to provide overflow space with a closed-circuit TV feed to at least listen?

If people are disruptive, they can and should be removed.

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The city pretty routinely makes pressers available (going back for many years) via live stream; see today's notification here.

I wouldn't mind seeing them just put this in the atrium, and once Shanna Cottone & the rest of the degenerate gang start yapping, give them a warning, and when they keep it up get them ready for an arraignment -- but it's understandable to deem it to be too much of a political distraction to the real issue, and not put a press conference in the place that might have the very worst acoustics in the city, and invite the conflict. At this point, I'm pretty sure what they want is to force a situation where they get arrested so they can take a spot in the news. After all -- this isn't about policy to them, it's about some weird deep seated animosity they have about having a young Asian woman as mayor.

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Response. Meanwhile, Mayor Wu is having a meltdown on Twitter and being childish.

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is being childish now? I'd hate to see what you think "being an adult" looks like.

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Or any other full-time elected official, having people come to your place of work and scream at you is part of the job description. That is covered by the phrase "petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

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without screaming epithets at people. I've even done it myself!

But regardless, there's still nothing childish about saying "I need to be able to communicate with the press and so I'm going to temporarily set up an event where I can do so." People are still free to scream at her at other events and times and I'm sure they'll keep doing so!

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That could work. But you may recall that at one of the mayor's first press conferences on Covid-19, she held it in the atrium and about a dozen anti-vaxxers were able to drown her and other speaks out at times because absolutely no sound is absorbed there, it just bounces around and around until you go deaf.

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and if they were allowed in and then removed for disruption, you all would accuse her of trying to silence dissent or whatever.

it’s always going to be a lose-lose when you’re playing w bad faith actors.

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What a complete shitshow. Mayor Wu has dug herself into a giant hole on this and she seems to keep digging herself deeper.

It's pretty impressive that she took a program that was for the most part wildly popular (outdoor dining) and make herself the target of scorn around it. Does the North End have some challenges that other neighborhoods don't have? Yes. But her solutions are just further enraging people and making her appear to be anti-small business.

She could easily have just said: "The restaurants need to be good neighbors and here are the rules that apply citywide. If any restaurant does not abide by the rules, they will be fined, and if they continue to violate them, their outdoor dining permit will be revoked."

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The places with liquor licenses get a reduction? Aren't those places the most profitable?

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*Places without

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oh sorry

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