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Mayor Wu Announces Changes To Outdoor Dining Plans For North End Restaurant Owners

BOSTON (CBS) – Mayor Michelle Wu announced changes to the outdoor dining plans for Boston's North End.

Several restaurant owners have threatened to sue the mayor and the city over a new fee and the mayor has threatened to cancel the program altogether.

Last month, the city announced restaurant owners only in the North End would have to pay a $7,500 fee to set up their patios this season. Owners call that unfair.

Wu announced the options for restaurants at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Wu said it was always meant to be a $1,500 per month fee that added up over the course of five months. Restaurant owners can divide it into monthly installments instead of paying the $7,500 up front and even opt to shorten their season.

There will also be hardship waivers that restaurant owners can submit if they don't have a liquor license, if they have a smaller patio, or if they're not located on the main roads.

Those granted hardship waivers will pay a reduced fee, likely between $3,500-$5,000.

Mayor Wu says the North End is unique because there are a large number of patios that take up parking spots. The mayor says she's trying to balance dining with the quality of life for residents.

Last year, there were 77 outdoor dining patios in just 0.2 square miles of the North End, including 70 on public property. By comparison, there were 51 patios in Back Bay with 21 on-street locations. There were 14 in the Seaport, seven in Roxbury, six in Charlestown, and one patio in Chinatown.

Massachusetts State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, who represents the North End, said "one size does not fit all" when it comes to outdoor dining and the North End.

"This has been a very unique and complicated situation to say the least," he said.

The deadline to apply for an outdoor dining permit is April 10.

"As long as we're do what's best for the neighborhood and mostly for the residents that live there year round so I personally was always in favor of trying to find a resolution with the mayor and the mayor's staff on finding a way to make this work because if we can have cleaner streets, safety, more police, a better living environment, it makes it better for all of us restaurant owners," restaurant owner Nick Varano said during the press conference.

A group of protesters voiced their opposition to the plan outside the room where the press conference was held after not being allowed in.

The group of owners representing about 20 restaurants said they do not yet have an attorney but are talking with some and plan to hire one to represent them.

"We will not pay if we are the only neighborhood required to pay this amount," one of the owners said at a press conference of their own that followed Wu's announcement.

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