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Restaurant owners outside the North End are also grappling with new regulations


“Some of us are concerned about the effect of these new rules and expenses for underrepresented businesses in Boston.”

Homeowner David Doyle poses for a portrait with the barricades he recently purchased outside Tres Gatos in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Turns out, the North End isn’t the only Boston neighborhood where restaurant owners say they’re unfairly burdened by new outdoor dining regulations imposed this year.

Restaurants elsewhere in the city say they have also grappled with new regulations that increase the cost of outdoor space.

In the North End, restaurants are being asked to pay a $7,500 fee, which, after some backlash, Mayor Michelle Wu agreed could be paid in installments. The city will also offer a “hardship waiver process” that could end up reducing these fees.

“I believe we can get to a situation this summer where our community members — which include our residents and restaurant owners — are all thriving,” Wu said at the time. “We need resources to do that.”

The North End had nearly 80 patios within 400 yards last year. The patios created congestion and parking problems, as well as noise, rodents, and other problems not seen elsewhere in Boston. The fee was instilled to help offset some of the issues, Wu said.

But even though restaurants in other parts of the city aren’t subject to the same fees, some owners say the new regulations come with a hefty price tag, one some businesses won’t be able to afford.

‘Out the window now’

David Doyle operates Tres Gatos in Jamaica Plain. He said additional insurance — a new regulation this year — plus improved barriers around his outdoor space cost him just under $5,000. He hopes the new barriers will continue to be the norm in the future.

“We’re going to assume it’s not a wasted investment,” he said, adding that he hopes the city will consider feedback from restaurateurs on the process.

For example, while he said he understands why barriers that weigh hundreds of pounds are safer than the wooden pallets he used last year, he said older barriers were decorated and businesses were creative in dressing them.

Tres Gatos, for example, contained a series of size 45 discs.

“It was artistic,” Doyle said. “It was attractive and it had planters on it. It’s out the window now. We have no use for it. »

Doyle also pointed out that some companies may not have the additional funds needed to purchase insurance or for the new barriers.

“Some of us are concerned about the effect of these new rules and expenses for underrepresented businesses in Boston,” Doyle said, noting that these include businesses run by people of color or of those for whom English is a second language.

An overview of some of the new regulations

According to a presentation on the city’s outdoor dining, businesses must carry commercial liability insurance. They must also provide ramps for ADA compliance. Restaurants are also not allowed to organize entertainment on their terraces. This includes background music, television or other entertainment, whether live or recorded.

Restaurants cannot prepare food on the sidewalk or in the street. Smoking and vaping are prohibited. Only assistance dogs for the disabled are allowed; all other animals are not, the presentation says.

On the barriers, the city requires that they be concrete or filled with water. They should be 72 inches long, 32 inches to 36 inches high, and 18 inches wide.

“All barriers should be a high contrast color with the roadway,” the presentation said. “The outside of barriers should never be painted black or other dark colors as they are difficult to see at night and can be hazardous to vehicles.”

2022 Outdoor Dining Webinar…

“Our small businesses would be victims again”

The JP Center/South Main Streets organization wrote a letter to the city about those concerns, asking the city to consider “how the process perpetuates racial disparities and inequities for small business owners.”

In addition to the new insurance requirement and the cost of barriers, the organization noted that the process of establishing permanent outdoor dining included “multiple hearings with city agencies,” various outreach requirements and materials, as well as plan approval from 10 different municipal departments, according to the letter.

“The past two years have been a fair trial of the benefits of increased outdoor seating and our city’s ability to facilitate that,” the letter said. “The simplified 2020-2021 application process has allowed small businesses to survive and thrive, enliven their neighborhoods and keep their local economy running.

“However, to endorse the 2022 guidelines and the old application process would be to acknowledge that disparity and inequity was simply ‘common practice’ for our city. Our small businesses would be victimized again.

Ginger Brown, the organization’s executive director, said that given the new guidelines, as well as the way the application process was pre-pandemic, “the application is unfair.”

“You can only get by if you have lots of money and resources,” she said. “It can create a disparity between those who can afford it and understand the process and those who can’t.”

In a statement, a Wu administration spokesperson said the city’s Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion and Neighborhood Services “always seeks to address” community concerns, and that he planned to work with restaurants to make the new regulations manageable — even providing “a limited supply of barriers” to some restaurants for free.

“These offices will work closely with Boston businesses to help them navigate this year’s new guidelines,” the statement said. “In an effort to ensure equitable participation in the temporary outdoor catering program, these offices will help small businesses facing financial challenges to comply with the guidelines by purchasing a limited quantity of barriers that meet the new requirements and the will make available to approved establishments. free.

“The new barrier requirements have been implemented to improve safety on outdoor restaurant patios and are consistent with pedestrian protection requirements when contractors and developers need to temporarily redirect the pedestrian path from the sidewalk to the street” , the statement said.

“Improved quality of life”

Going forward, Doyle said he believes the process will change to a permanent process from a temporary pandemic process. It was “very complicated” before, he said, noting he didn’t know it was even an option for outdoor dining before the pandemic.

He said he hopes his company and others will be able to provide feedback to the city and that the process will be streamlined. Outdoor dining has been “an improvement in quality of life” and an “increase in vitality,” Doyle said.

Brown said the outdoor dining regulations go beyond temporary regulations.

“It’s more than temporary guidelines,” she said. “It’s also about making the ongoing process fair.”


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