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Boston Mayor Martin Walsh takes next step to improving nightlife

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced Friday he is forming a task force to consider whether bars and restaurants should stay open until 3:30 a.m. PHOTO BY EMILY ZABOSKI/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced Friday he is forming a task force to consider whether bars and restaurants should stay open until 3:30 a.m. PHOTO BY EMILY ZABOSKI/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

With the fast-approaching launch date of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s late-night hours, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced a plan to revamp the Boston nightlife scene by extending operating hours for some bars and restaurants until 3:30 a.m.

The plan, which was addressed at the Boston Municipal Research Bureau’s annual meeting on March 7, will be executed through a task force of 10 to 20 individuals, though these numbers are subject to change, said Daniel Koh, Walsh’s chief of staff.

“Working with the state on legal barriers, and listening to voices from all over the city, we can create the kind of nightlife that visitors expect in a world-class city,” Walsh said at the meeting. “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.”

Once a tentative program is created, it will be tested in the Seaport District because of its low neighborhood density, Koh said.

“The Seaport District is an area where there’s been a lot of recent developments,” he said. “Although there are neighborhoods out there, it’s not as dense a neighborhood as other places. We are very, very cautious of the fact. We want to make sure this is not an environment where people feel like this is going to be very disruptive.”

Koh said the program will be beneficial for workers with unconventional work schedules, as well as Boston’s thousands of college students.

“If someone gets out [of work] at 2:00 a.m., we want to cultivate an environment where the person can go out and get food, get a glass of wine and be able to feel like the city is still running for them,” he said.

Malia Lazu, executive director of Future Boston Alliance, said the later hours would change the culture of Boston nightlife.

“One of the hardest things in Boston’s nightlife is this idea that everyone has to leave by 2:00 [and] everyone has to be out of the bar by 2:20,” she said. “By giving people the ability to have longer times to enjoy themselves and more spread-out times to leave, I think it will make the community more enjoyable while experiencing late night activities.”

Lazu said Future Boston Alliance was formed with the intention of enhancing Boston’s nightlife, and they plan to support all programs that will help them reach their goal.

“We are very proud of our progress,” she said. “Future Boston was founded around this idea that our current approach to nightlife which was not necessarily positive or encouraging a healthy nightlife … We really thought we needed to push for more vibrant nightlife, and we are excited to see that this new administration sees the benefit as well.”

Pat Mot, a server at the Boston University branch of Noodle Street, said the program could be successful in some areas of the city, but on college campuses, it may not be worth the trouble.

“Mostly, it’s faculty and students that come to eat,” she said. “After [2:00 a.m.], there are no more students in this area. Mostly, they are back in their dorms to study for the next day, during the weekdays. Weekends, people mostly go into the city [off campus].”

Several residents said the later hours for bars and restaurants would have a significant improvement on Boston nightlife.

Jesse Wetherell, 27, of Allston, said if people want to stay out all night, they will, and keeping bars open later will not create more crime in the city, as some people may expect.

“It’ll help us catch up with the other cities,” he said. “People are going to stay out no matter what, and putting an artificial curfew on it isn’t going to do much other than cut down on the amount of money that the city makes and the amount of money that the businesses especially make.”

Tracy Taylor, 30, of Beacon Hill, said the later hours at bars and restaurants may end up hurting the T’s new late-night hours, because the two programs will not be working hand-in-hand.

“It will be wonderful for the industry,” she said. “The only thing that will suffer is the T. They’re starting with this new one starting at 2 a.m., [but] they don’t really have a plan yet.”

Owen Macdonald, 23, of Charlestown, said the changes could lead to more crime, but this can be expected in any place that serves alcohol.

“Any time you have lots of people with alcohol, it can cause problems, though I’ve always been a little disappointed with the Boston nightlife,” he said. “A little later wouldn’t be a problem with me.”

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