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Streetside Outdoor Dining Is Here to Stay in Boston — Except for the North End

North End restaurants won’t be able to set up outdoor dining on public streets this year, city officials say

Crowds of people enjoy outdoor dining outside of Bencotto in the North End of Boston.
The city of Boston has announced a permanent outdoor dining plan with a slew of extra restrictions for North End restaurants.
David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

Last Thursday, mayor Michelle Wu announced guidelines for a permanent outdoor dining program in Boston. The plan sets the foundation for a summer filled with al fresco dining in the streets this year — unless the restaurant is located in the North End. The Boston Globe reports that, similar to years past, the city of Boston is placing North End restaurants under a more stringent set of outdoor dining rules to combat noise complaints, traffic congestion, and loss of parking due to outdoor dining in the neighborhood.

This year’s outdoor dining program starts on May 1 and will likely run through November, according to the Globe. Restaurants outside of the North End will be allowed to apply for permits to set up tables on sidewalks and streets as long as the configuration complies with city accessibility and safety requirements, like placing barriers around seating in the street. Restaurants in the North End, however, are not allowed to do any on-street dining and can only set up outdoor tables on sidewalks that allow for either five or eight feet of space from the edge of the patio setup to the road, depending on how busy the street is.

All restaurants will be charged the same fees — $199 or $399 each month, depending on whether the business has a liquor license — to run outdoor dining. Last year, North End restaurants were charged an extra $7,500 fee for their permits, and had to start their outdoor dining season later and pack it in earlier than restaurants in other neighborhoods.

Similar to last year, North End restaurateurs are not happy about this development. At a recent meeting where the city’s outdoor dining plan was revealed, Strega restaurateur Nick Varano said that the special restrictions for North End spots don’t allow for “a fair playing field” among the city’s restaurants. Frank DePasquale, another veteran North End restaurateur who runs a bunch of popular establishments including Bricco and Mare Oyster Bar, called the program a “flaw” and said that it was “upsetting for us to be discriminated against,” the Globe reports.

While the city restrictions are set for this year, the program will likely morph again next year, according to the Globe. The city is reportedly putting together a group of restaurants, residents, and city officials to weigh in on what outdoor dining should look like in 2024 and beyond.