Even as Mayor Michelle Wu and North End restaurants appear to be moving closer to reaching a compromise on the future of outdoor dining in that neighborhood, the status of outdoor patios for other restaurants throughout the city remains undetermined amid changing state and city regulations, according to one well-established Boston restaurateur.
“It’s unfortunate that state still hasn’t approved outdoor dining,” said Babak Bina, who along with his sister, Azita Bina-Seibel, owns and operates Bin 26 on Charles Street, as well as jm Curley and its steakhouse, Bogie’s Place, in Downtown Crossing. “We hope that they can come to an agreement and authorize our cities and towns to have outdoor dining back, which residents in most Bostin neighborhoods are in support of.”
On top of this, approximately three weeks ago, Boston restaurants learned that the city’s application process for outdoor dining was being “fine-tuned,” said Bina, and that restaurants would have to “resubmit more details regarding the setup and infrastructure for outdoor dining.”
“What was filed before is null and void. There is an all-new application process, and generally, they’ve fine-tuned issues they might have identified, like drainage or safety,” said Bina. “Now, we have to spend additional funds to apply. We hope [our applications] can be approved, and that we can open quickly.”
Additionally, some restaurants have already spent significant sums on barriers to separate diners and the street, which are no longer acceptable per the city, and they are now required to use certified concrete barriers or water-weighted barriers that can withstand a heavy impact instead.
Bina personally spent $4,000 on his street barriers, which are no longer permitted, while he knows of other restaurateurs who spent between $7,000 and $10,000 on barriers that are now useless in the eyes of the city.
Another problem Bina and other restaurant owners continue to face is the ongoing supply-chain issue, which, since the onset of the pandemic, has had adverse effects in nearly every industry.
“I don’t think in 2022 we’ll see a drop in our costs,” said Bina. “Our costs continue to rise, but we’re seeing no relief from suppliers, and that has continued. Although the business has had glimpses of making an excellent comeback, that’s the biggest challenge for us across the board.”
Looking ahead, Bina and other restaurateurs like him are hoping to see some more consistency in terms of policies around outdoor dining, as well as some more stability when it comes to the supply chain.
“We’re hoping this year we can come up with a long-term agreement for outdoor dining, as well as a possible decrease in our costs by the end of the year,” he said.