Boston's Morning Newsletter
Boston's new outdoor dining program kicks off — without the North End
Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here.
The April showers may be sticking around a little this week, but it looks like we have a lot of seasonable spring weather ahead, including today. And it’s good timing…
Today marks the official beginning of Boston’s alfresco dining season, under the city’s new permanent outdoor dining rules. The post-pandemic program lets restaurants apply to set up patios in public spaces like sidewalks and parking spaces, if they pay a monthly fee ($399 if they have a liquor license; $199 if they don’t).
- Don’t expect to see the patio scene in full bloom just yet. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s office said they expect to have just over 40 establishments approved for outdoor dining by today, but that doesn’t mean all will be immediately up and running.
- That’s far less than the 300+ restaurants that participated in last year’s mostly free program, but Wu’s office says more should be approved soon. According to a spokesperson, there’s been “a large influx of restaurants applying in the last couple weeks,” and the city is working to process those applications ASAP.
- One big difference with this year’s program is that the North End is not included. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any outdoor dining in the North End, but patios will be limited to restaurants’ private property or sidewalks wide enough for both tables and foot traffic. (In other words, say goodbye to the parking spot patios on Hanover Street.)
- Why the crackdown on the North End? Wu’s office points to the neighborhood’s unique density, which led to issues with traffic and trash the last few years (not to mention a whole big controversy over a special mitigation fee). There’s also the two-month Sumner Tunnel closure, which city officials say will put extra strain on North End traffic this summer.
- A glimmer of hope: There’s a chance the North End could be re-included in the outdoor dining program in future years. The city is putting together a task force to figure out how it would work.
- One place you’ll be sure to see outdoor dining today: Canal Street by the TD Garden. That’s because tonight is Game 1 of the Celtics’ second-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, and the city is closing the street during home games.
Blue Line riders, don’t stay out too late this week — unless you want to take the bus home. The entire line is shutting down again at 8 p.m. each night through Thursday, due to track work to lift speed restrictions on the line. Shuttles will make stops between Government Center and Wonderland through the end of the night. (It’s something to keep in mind if you’re going to any Celtics-76ers games this week.)
- Zoom out: There’s some MBTA service disruption every single day this month, with the exception of Memorial Day. If you take the T, make sure to bookmark our day-by-day (-by-day-by-day) guide to all the weeknight and weekend line closures.
Evening commuters will also face disruption on the roads this week: today marks the beginning of three months of weeknight southbound lane closures on the Tobin Bridge, running 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night. Officials say two lanes of traffic will remain open during the work.
- If you’re out real late: the northbound side of the I-93 tunnel through Boston will be fully closed from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday night due to maintenance.
Boston is resuming its efforts to get people off the streets in the so-called Mass. and Cass area. After allowing people experiencing homelessness to stay in the area during the winter, Wu’s office says it’s resuming tent removal today.
- Officials say they’re asking people to leave voluntarily and offering alternative housing and substance abuse treatment options.
Out west: Gov. Maura Healey’s new “Western Mass.” office opens today in Springfield, offering residents in the region a direct line to the governor’s Beacon Hill office.
- Who’s in charge: Healey announced last week that Kristen Elechko, a Northampton resident and former aide to Sen. Ed Markey, will be the new office’s director.
- Get in touch: Constituents can visit the new office in Springfield in person (the address is State Office Building, 436 Dwight St., Suite 300) or call 413-784-1200.
P.S.— No, we’re not ready to talk about what happened to the Bruins last night.