What’s the price of an Indiana tourist sipping prawn scampi on the sidewalk?
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu discovers there is a high political price to pay for charging North End restaurants extra fees for hosting outdoor dining. She feels the anger of their anger.
But the actual price — $7,500 — seems like a reasonable alternative to charging restaurants for sidewalk and road space — a price that would otherwise be borne by the city — in other words, tax-paying residents.
Why should taxpayers subsidize restaurants, which make big profits, for their outdoor dining spaces? The answer is that they shouldn’t.
Wu is right to hold firm in this tense confrontation with restaurateurs, and not to back down because she is facing a political backlash.
It was one of the few times Wu got it right in his young administration.
It’s not petulant revenge, like she’s trying to stand up to protesters who show up outside her Roslindale home every morning.
And it’s not an attempt to push back a neighborhood that backed its opponent in the election.
Wu battles a powerful special interest group, as she promised to do when elected. Restaurateurs threaten to sue to block charges, citing discrimination, so let them. See what the courts have to say.
These are mostly not small, family businesses – they are gold mines that take great advantage of the fact that they can sit customers outside.
And let’s be clear, Wu is siding with — not against — residents who live in the North End neighborhood. They lose valuable parking to these restaurants, as well as noise and drinking, smoking and public urination within a few hundred yards of their homes.
The Wu administration is preying on business owners in the North End, many of whom don’t even live in the neighborhood.
Business owners want to take advantage of service to customers on the sidewalk and streets of the North End, which depends on tourism, but they don’t want to pay for it.
They think if they make enough noise, the rookie mayor will back down.
They were wrong. Wu is doubling down on its pricing plan, saying it won’t let restaurant owners get their outdoor spaces for free.
Wu herself was at Zoom meetings where North End residents complained about noise and loss of parking spaces from outdoor dining. She heard the complaints and is now standing up for the residents.
A fee of $7,500 isn’t too much to ask — in fact, it’s a small sum compared to what restaurants reap in the extra business they make from outdoor dining.