Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, announced his efforts to streamline Boston into a “world-class city” to hundreds of business leaders last Friday. As the keynote speaker at the Boston Municipal Research Bureau’s 82nd Annual Meeting, Walsh highlighted three major ways in which he plans to upgrade the city’s cultural status in his first year as mayor: streamline permits for new businesses, draw international business, and create a task force that will look into extending Boston’s nightlife.
City officials are informally calling this final goal the “late night task force,” a group of 10 to 15 members who will investigate the feasibility of extending restaurant and bar operating hours in the city. Members of the task force will include bar and restaurant owners, college students, young professionals, and community leaders, among others. Walsh has included a mandate to examine shutting down businesses at 3:30 a.m., a substantial change from the current laws that prohibit any establishment from staying open past 2 a.m.
The task force will consider how the city’s public transportation would relate to extended hours and will take into account the effects later operating hours would have on Boston’s neighborhoods and residents. While substantial limitations such as these will weigh upon the task force, many agree that it is time for Boston to adopt a more modern timetable that will appeal to the young professionals that Walsh hopes to draw to the city.
Greg Selkoe, creator of the Future Boston Alliance, a group focused on improving the quality of life for young professionals in the city, told The Boston Herald that “no one is advocating losing the charm and livability of Boston,” but asserted that the city cannot reasonably “retain young talent” if it does not make an effort to be open 24 hours per day.
Should the task force yield positive results in their findings, the group will seek to create a pilot program to test the extended nightly timetable. In order to test a later closing time, restaurants and bars in the Seaport District, a hotspot for Boston nightlife, will be allowed to serve alcohol until 2:30 a.m. and stay open until 3:30 a.m. Theoretically, patrons could continue dancing and socializing in bars and clubs for the extra hour after last call.
The extended hours could also help eliminate the 2 a.m traffic jams, which occur every Friday and Saturday night as bar-goers try to secure cabs at closing time, long after the MBTA has stopped running. The MBTA is about to implement a pilot program of its own to extend weekend service hours, however-subway and trolley lines, as well as 15 bus routes, will run until 3 a.m. The MBTA’s extended hours are expected to begin in late March or early April.
“In a global economy, retaining talent is just as important as recruiting employers,” Walsh said, according to a press release from the mayor’s office. “For that reason, an international business hub needs a truly cosmopolitan culture.”
In his keynote address, Walsh announced that he plans to meet with dozens of diplomats currently stationed in Boston this upcoming week. According to The Boston Globe, the mayor is now concentrating his efforts on making Boston into “each nation’s number one business partner.” In order to streamline the permit process, Walsh has set what he calls “aggressive new benchmarks” for the Inspectional Services Department on issuing permits throughout the city in a fast and orderly manner. The department has been ordered to respond to questions within one business day and approve 75 percent of basic permits in 20 days or less. Additionally, Walsh will tap into the budding technological resources in the city by hosting a “hackathon,” where he will invite local computer programmers to help overhaul the department’s website and permit application processes.
While Walsh’s task force has received much praise as a being representative of a move in the right direction for the city, there are multiple steps still necessary before the city can implement change. Walsh must convene the task force, analyze its report, condense its findings into language fit for a bill, and then send the bill to the State Legislature for approval. Moreover, the task force may not report the positive or hopeful findings many community members and the mayor are expecting. “They could come back and say there is no path forward,” said the mayor’s Chief of Staff, Daniel Koh, according to Boston Magazine. “But obviously the mayor is hopeful there is, and that they will be able to find ways to make it work.”