Boston shares 2024 outdoor dining plan as North End restaurant restrictions continue

CBS News Boston

BOSTON - Boston's outdoor dining season for 2024 kicks off on May 1, Mayor Michelle Wu announced Tuesday. And once again, there will be restrictions for restaurants in the North End.

Just like last year, participating businesses will have to pay $399 per month if they have a liquor license, versus $199 per month without one. Wu says changes to the application process this year are "making it easier for new and previously businesses to take part in the program."

Outdoor dining has declined in popularity since 2020, when the city approved more than 550 requests for outdoor dining licenses with less regulation. In 2023, Boston approved 180 restaurants for outdoor dining. 

Outdoor dining policy in the North End

Outdoor dining in the tight quarters of the North End has been a controversial issue. Neighbors have said there's just not enough space to support outdoor dining. But some restaurant owners in the neighborhood have sued the city, claiming discrimination when Wu required restaurants to pay a fee to extend dining onto Hanover Street. A new lawsuit filed in January seeks damages for lost business and asks that North End restaurants be allowed to apply for outdoor dining permits like anywhere else in Boston.

"In 2023, due to reasons including the North End's high density of restaurants and foot traffic, narrow streets and sidewalks, resident parking scarcity, and other related considerations, the City issued permits in the neighborhood for compliant sidewalk patios, but did not issue permits for on-street outdoor dining," Wu's administration said in a statement. "In 2024, the City intends to continue those policies in the North End and may craft additional neighborhood-specific guidelines as the program advances."

The Boston Globe reports that the city is listening to suggestions for a "North-End specific program" that could allow weekend-only outdoor dining in the future, smaller restaurant patios or a lottery system for permits. But Boston decided to keep last year's rules in place for now because there isn't enough time to make changes. 

When is outdoor dining allowed in Boston?

The outdoor dining program will run from May 1 through Oct. 31. Restaurants are allowed to have diners sit outside until 10 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. 

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