North End outdoor dining up and running after fight with mayor over fee
Dozens of temporary outdoor patios popped up across the North End on Sunday, after restaurant owners paid a new $7,500 fee to put out tables on public spaces.
That fee has pitted a group of restaurateurs against Mayor Michelle Wu.
But on Sunday, the first day of outdoor dining for the season, patrons sitting along Hanover Street's new parking spot patios were largely unaware of the city politics.
The sun shone as Carmine Iantosca and Franco Contino sipped espresso and drank Peroni outside Caffè dello Sport.
"We come here every Sunday," Iantosca said. He said he hadn't followed the spat over the new fee, but felt the amount was reasonable.
"If they're charging $35 for chicken parm, you can afford $7,500 to pay out here. My opinion," he said.
Across the table, Contino said the city could go even further, and shut down the whole street to traffic.
"I don't want to see cars, I want to see people being able to relax without worrying about someone running into me." He said. "Some drunk guy, you know, speeding down the street."
A city spokesperson said 67 restaurants applied for outdoor dining this year — slightly fewer than last year, before there was a fee. Twenty-eight restaurants applied for hardship wavers, and 23 received them.
But some restaurant owners are still challenging the new system.
Monica's Trattoria co-owner Frank Mendoza said he wants to take the city and Wu to court over the fee.
"I'm part of a lawsuit against the mayor because she's unjustifiably taxed the restaurants in the North End," he said. "I don't think it's fair what she did. And I don't think she's justified in why she did it."
Around the corner, Phillip Fratteroli, who owns Lucia's Ristorante and Ducali Pizzeria, said he's fine with the fee.
He said he recognizes the need to balance the restaurants' interests with neighbors, who complain about trash and lost parking.
"(The fee) hurts a little bit, especially having just paid it, but for us, to be able to utilize public space like this, it's really a special, special thing in the North End and we want to make it sustainable for everybody," he said.
Under the new system, the North End's outdoor dining program started later than in the rest of the city, and has to end earlier.
Fratteroli said he hopes enough restaurants comply with city regulations that outdoor dining can stay through September.
"We haven't had any violations in two years, so I don't foresee us having any," he said. He said those extra weeks could mean a lot more business.
"September's a good month weather-wise," he added, "definitely better than April."