Drivers honking horns and pedestrians rushing past on a crowded sidewalk paid little notice to the man dining al fresco on Boylston Street.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino sat in the shade of the Lenox Hotel Wednesday, sipping a bowl of French onion soup at Solas, an Irish pub situated between the two bomb blasts that rocked last week’s Boston Marathon. He suspiciously eyed a plate of fried squid with mango salsa.
“Somebody ordered the calamari,” said Menino, whose doctors prescribed a strict diet since diagnosing him with Type 2 diabetes. “I didn’t.”
Menino did not come just for the food. He came on a mission: to put money back in the till of local businesses, closed for more than a week while Copley Square remained a crime scene. Many of the employees are servers and bartenders who depend almost entirely on tips.
“It’s real exciting to me to see all the people down here,’’ Menino said between sips of soup. “I had to see it for myself.”
Menino sat with Sheila Dillon, who leads Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development. The city has dispatched grief counselors to help employees working the day of the blasts, Dillon said, and it has registered 500 businesses at a city-run information center that will help those businesses navigate insurance claims and applications for federal aid.
When Copley Square reopened Wednesday, people mobbed its bars and restaurants. Patrons bounced from bar to bar, some leaving $20 tips after ordering just one drink, said Daniel Donahue, managing director at The Lenox. Hotel staff and bartenders patronized their competitors to try to spread the money around. Restaurants sent food to employees at other restaurants still cleaning up after the blasts.
“That’s Boston,” Donahue said. “That wouldn’t happen in any other city.”
Menino looked rested after the harrowing events of last week. He had crutches, forsaking the wheelchair he relied on after the bombings. His right ankle was in a walking cast.
Across Boylston Street, people photographed the sidewalk where the bombs had exploded.
“As I reflect on what happened, I ask myself, ‘Why?’ ” Menino said as traffic streamed by on Boylston Street. “What kind of individuals would create such trauma and chaos and hold the city hostage? What went through their minds?
“How sick can they be?”