Even longtime North Enders who have “seen it all” have been watching in wonderment the overnight transformation of the North End’s streets and squares into European-style cafes and piazzas, complete with umbrellas, plants and even music. After just one weekend, it is clear to even a casual observer that swapping parked cars for dining tables has created much more than what was expected.
While the catalyst for the cafe zones was to help restaurants recover from the COVID-19 shutdown, many have long been pushing for this type of outdoor dining and would like it to stay beyond just this season, a decision to come later.
Business owners, visitors and the press are completely enthralled with the changes. Residents are a bit more measured, based on reactions from last week’s meeting with Mayor Walsh and State Rep. Michlewitz. Most are happy to see economic activity return while questioning the long-term consequences of traffic and quality of life issues.
Of course, not all of it has come without some controversy. Some are concerned that outdoor dining will be a victim of its own success and contribute to a COVID-19 outbreak without proper safety protocols and enforcement. Tables are supposed to be spaced 6 feet apart or have plexiglass dividers.
Residents also asked city officials to increase code and traffic enforcement related to fire and pedestrian safety. Also yet to be announced are the details of the resident parking arrangement the city has set up at Government Center Garage.