HomeInfraNorth End restaurants file amended lawsuit over outdoor dining regulations

North End restaurants file amended lawsuit over outdoor dining regulations

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Some North End restaurateurs are claiming Mayor Michelle Wu made them pay thousands to provide outdoor dining last year because of her bias against “white, Italian men.”

The allegation is included in an amended version of a lawsuit the owners filed last year when they said the fees from the mayor — $7,500 to entertain guests outdoors and $480 for parking – created “unfair” competition with the city’s other neighborhoods.

The North End was the only neighborhood that faced fees last year. Wu and other city officials cited burdens to the residents’ quality of life — increased noise, trash, traffic and a loss of parking — behind the decision.

“The Plaintiffs had a right to be treated the same as other restaurants in the city who were granted outdoor dining and not be singled out to pay fees that other restaurants were not forced to pay in order to have outdoor dining because of their sex or national origin/ethnicity as appears in this case,” reads the amended lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

The restaurateurs own Vinoteca di Monica, Terramia Ristorante and Antico Forno, Rabia’s Dolce Fumo, and Monica’s Trattorias

They feel the mayor, just two months into her term at the time, attacked them during remarks she made during the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, which features politicians roasting one other with jokes.

“I’m getting used to dealing with problems that are expensive, disruptive and white,” Wu said in her speech which came in the thick of the controversy spurred by her decision. North End restaurateurs also had a shorter outdoor dining season last year compared to other restaurant owners across the city.

“It is commonly known that the traditional owner of a restaurant in the North End … is a white male of Italian descent, and the North End is generally regarded as the last true ethnic Boston Italian neighborhood,” the amended lawsuit reads.

The group behind the lawsuit is seeking $1 million in punitive damages and $500,000 in compensatory damages, the same amounts they sought last year.

A $1.4 million tourism initiative, dubbed “All Inclusive Boston,” is drawing the ire of the restaurateurs. They say a video on the campaign website did not feature any white men or Italian Americans “outside a three-second take on Red Sox players.” They claim that the North End was not included in a section displaying the city’s neighborhoods. As of Wednesday, a tab had been posted.

The case came close to being dismissed last fall after city attorneys found it “reasonably conceivable” for Wu and officials to regulate outdoor dining differently in the North End, but the federal judge granted the restaurateurs time to make an amended complaint.

Restaurateurs this year voicing concerns of bias from the city since they will be barred from providing meals on neighborhood streets, the only neighborhood to face such restrictions, due to ongoing infrastructure projects.

“The North End is the greatest Italian community in the country. For us to be discriminated against in a situation like this, I think it’s a flaw to Italians, I think it’s a flaw to the North End,” neighborhood restaurateur Frank DePasquale said during a meeting last month.

When asked about the amended lawsuit at an unrelated press conference Wednesday, Wu declined to comment on the “ongoing litigation” besides that she stands behind the city’s decisions to treat North End outdoor dining differently than in other neighborhoods.

“Our small businesses, our restaurant community is a key part of what makes Boston so special and what makes people want to come visit our neighborhoods,” the mayor said. “We need to make sure first and foremost that Boston — and every neighborhood — is a place for the people who live there.”

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