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Walsh calls for more vibrant nightlife

Mayor backs streamlined permitting process

Mayor Martin J. Walsh shared his vision of Boston in the near future in a speech to hundreds of business leaders.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Mayor Martin J. Walsh outlined his vision Friday to make Boston a world-class city, an effort he said included streamlining permitting, spurring vibrant late-night culture, and attracting business from across the globe.

In a major speech to hundreds of business leaders, Walsh said he planned to meet next week with dozens of diplomats stationed in Boston. His message to the consular corps: Boston wants to be each nation’s number one business partner.

“Boston is already a mecca for international students, artists, and scientists,” Walsh said. “We can also be a mecca for international business. We have begun to design a more efficient, transparent, and equitable system for future growth.”


To streamline the issuing of permits, Walsh said he had directed the city’s Inspectional Services Department to meet what he described as “aggressive new benchmarks.” Walsh said the department would respond to questions within one business day and approve 75 percent of basic permits in under 20 days.

The city also planned to hold a “hackathon,” Walsh said, inviting local computer programmers to explore the department’s computer network and help overhaul the way people apply for permits.

The speech to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau was Walsh’s first major address since his inauguration in January. The luncheon was at the Seaport Hotel as part of the annual meeting for the research bureau, a fiscal watchdog funded by local companies and nonprofits.

Walsh also announced that he was launching a task force to examine how the city can extend operating hours for bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. One idea would be to allow some nightspots to serve alcohol until 2:30 a.m. and stay open until 3:30 a.m., Walsh said.

The initiative will probably start as a pilot program in the Seaport or another part of the city, Walsh said. He said he hoped to have something in place by May, but he acknowledged that longer hours for bars and restaurants would require legislative approval on Beacon Hill.


The task force will include bar and restaurant owners, college students, community leaders, and others.

“Working with the state on legal barriers, and listening to voices from all over the city, we can create the kind of night life that visitors expect in a world-class city,” Walsh said. “Those international students who flock to our colleges, we want them to stay here, start their businesses, and tell their friends back home that Boston is the place to be.”

The proposal to keep Boston’s night life precincts thrumming deeper into the night met with delight and derision.

Denizens of the night know too well the rush from clubs that comes at 2 a.m., and the hunt for taxis.

“Right now, everyone is forced out at the same time, and it’s chaos,” said Rony Gomes , host at Temazcal Cantina in the Seaport. “It will be nice to have everyone go as they please and not rush out.”

Ezra Star, bar manager at Drink in Fort Point, proclaimed the possibility of later closing hours “a great idea.”

“It will be nice to have Boston follow what New York already does,” she said.

Gomes said later hours would certainly be a hit with visitors.

“When tourists find out we usually close down early, it puts a frown on their face,” Gomes said. “Everyone wants to stay out a little longer.”


But Pam Chin, whose husband owns the Corner Pub in the Leather District, remained wary of extending the hours to drink.

“I don’t like it,” said Chin, who works at the pub. “I think people out after 1 a.m. are up to no good.”

She said she and her husband will probably have no option but to stay open later so that they can keep up with the competition.

“It’s just going to extend how late the younger kids are out,” Chin said. “It gets bad enough as it is.”

In his speech, Walsh also noted that for the first time in history, the city had received a perfect Triple-A bond rating from both Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services. The grades — could be attributed to the 20-year run of former mayor Thomas M. Menino — will help the city save money when it sells bonds to pay for projects.

Walsh said he had begun “constructive talks” on contracts for firefighters, superior officers, and detectives. He said another union had agreed to transfer the city’s 20 code enforcement officers to Public Works from Inspectional Services.

The move will streamline garbage collection and other city services, a city official said. Code enforcement officers will now go ahead of garbage trucks, the official said, citing properties for improper disposal of trash. Previously, code enforcement arrived after the garbage trucks, and many violations had already been picked up.

Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.