Outdoor dining will soon return to Boston — but one neighborhood will have to pay up to take part.
To participate in the city’s outdoor dining program, North End restaurants will have to shell out $7,500, according to city officials who announced a series of new requirements during a Zoom meeting Thursday with residents and restaurant owners.
In addition to the fee, North End restaurants cannot start outdoor dining until May 1, one month later than restaurants in other Boston neighborhoods. The program will also wrap up in the North End in September, compared to December in the rest of the city.
The new plan drew criticism from many North End restaurateurs, who, like so many others, relied on revenue from outdoor dining to stay afloat during the pandemic.
“For me, it doesn’t make sense why other neighborhoods get to start earlier in the season as well as not pay the fines that the North End has to,” said Patrick O’Malley, restaurant manager at Bricco. “After everything that’s happened over the last two years with COVID, I believe each neighborhood should be treated the same.”
The changes to the North End’s outdoor dining program were made “based on feedback received from the community,” said City Hall deputy press secretary Emma Pettit. A committee of community members and local officials will oversee how the funds are spent “to mitigate the impact of the program on the residents of the neighborhood.”
Last summer, many residents complained that the restaurant patios were taking up valuable parking space and clogging sidewalks, and called for the city to bring outdoor dining to a halt.
Carla Gomes, owner of Terramia and Antico Forno restaurants, said she felt the rules were discriminatory against Italian restaurants in the North End.
“We’re all furious right now. Every single one of us,” she said. “I honestly believe that this is to deter outdoor dining in the neighborhood ... give us a fair playing field, here,” she said.
City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who represents the North End, said the fee is necessary to cover the impact of outdoor dining on the dense neighborhood, including trash pickup and lost residential parking spots.
“It’s a form of mitigation,” Edwards said.
But Gomes said that most, if not all, North End restaurants remove their own trash.
“We don’t need the city to do this for us and charge us extra money,” Gomes said. North End restaurants are also required to pay between $450 and $500 a month for each resident parking spot displaced by the outdoor seating.
Edwards said some restaurant owners are asking to pay less than $7,500 if their business is smaller. Some North End restaurants have more than 100 seats, while others have fewer than 30.
“That’s something we can look into,” she said, adding that officials are trying to find the “right sweet spot.”
“I think a lot of people need to be reminded that we have the biggest concentration of restaurants in the North End,” Edwards said.
Outdoor dining was introduced in 2020, just months into the pandemic. For restaurateurs, the program has delivered a financial boost, but for some residents it has brought a host of quality-of-life concerns.
Among them was parking. Last year, about 180 parking spaces in the neighborhood were affected by outdoor dining. That number dropped to 130 this year, which will be replaced in nearby garages, city officials said.
Another change this year is that Hanover Street, which cuts through the heart of the North End, will temporarily become one-way from Richmond Street to Cross Street. The change will be in place from May through September, city officials said.
Another citywide change this year is closing hours for outdoor seating. On Sundays through Thursdays, patios have to close at 9:30 p.m., with patrons out by 10 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, patios must close at 10:30 p.m., with patrons out by 11 p.m. Last year, closing times were a half-hour later.
The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance condemned the new fee, singling out Mayor Michelle Wu of Boston.
“Arbitrarily enacting a new $7,500 fee may not sound like a lot to an out-of-touch government official, but for a struggling restaurant owner, it’s crushing to think of another fee or tax to pay in addition to the mountain of debt most restaurant owners find themselves after the last two years of the pandemic,” said Paul Diego Craney, a spokesman for the group.
In a statement, Wu said the outdoor dining program “will help the city offer the delights of outdoor dining in support of businesses while also mitigating the unique impacts that outdoor dining has on this neighborhood.”
Daniela DiPietrantonio, owner of L’Osteria Restaurant, said she isn’t sure she will take advantage of the program, as she did the past two years.
“It’s too costly,” she said.
Travis Andersen and Danny McDonald of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Brittany Bowker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker and on Instagram @brittbowker.