BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Following the announcement of an outdoor dining participation fee coming for Boston's North End restaurants, owners have organized and spoken out against the $7,500 charge.
Named the North End Restaurant Community (and formed within a week of posting), restaurant owners and community members started a petition and released a statement online that decried the City of Boston's decision to impose "exorbitant fees" against them.
WBZ NewsRadio spoke with Frank Mendoza of Monica's Trattoria about the restaurants' legal consultation.
"We gathered as a group, no one is leading us. We just decided as a group, sixty of us on a Zoom meeting with an attorney. We're seeking legal action against the City of Boston and Michelle Wu," Mendoza said.
Mendoza went on to say that Wu's decision to charge restaurants was not a valid one, and listed the amount that the fees would add up to during the outdoor dining season for Monica's Trattoria.
"The North End's going to be charged $7,500 to fill out an application, $500 for each car we move off the street, which comes up to $1,300 for the five months- that's just alone with the fee, and the car removal as long as you only move two cars," Mendoza said.
The NERC requested that the program fees be voided and that the North End's outdoor seating window be extended permanently to September 30, without any restrictions.
At the time of posting, the petition against the outdoor dining fee has over six thousand signatures. The petition said that the 2022 outdoor dining program amplifies the effects of the pandemic and the financial hardships that came with it. Organizers also said that the participation fee would apply the same regardless of whether the restaurant receives five tables outside or fifty.
According to the NERC, Wu's position that North End residents deserve to have clean streets doesn't stand either, as they said restaurant owners are already responsible for cleaning their business area daily, including any outdoor space.
"I asked to sit down with her [Wu] and she never did. She gave us an unjustified bill, and I asked the mayor multiple times why, but she doesn't give you an answer why," Mendoza said.
Mayor Wu's office shared with WBZ NewsRadio a letter that was sent to North End restaurant owners on Friday.
In her letter Wu said that the pilot program changes are directly related to the impacts that outdoor dining has on North End residential life. Wu said that the North End has the densest concentration of restaurants anywhere in the Commonwealth, and that more than three hundred complaints were filed last summer related to noise, congestion, rodents, and street cleanliness because of outdoor dining.
"Many North End residents have called for ending outdoor dining altogether in the neighborhood. 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 before the start of this season," Wu said.
The City said that the deadline to apply for this year's pilot is April 10.