North End restaurant owners take legal action against Michelle Wu
Four North End restaurateurs have filed a lawsuit against Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. They claim the $7,500 outdoor dining fee imposed on restaurants in the neighborhood is unconstitutional, reports the WCVB.
The plaintiffs are Jorge Mendoza, owner of Vinoteca di Monica; Carla Gomes, owner of Terramia Ristorante and Antico Forno; Christian Silvestri, owner of Dolce Fumo in Rabia; and Patrick Mendoza, owner of Monica’s Trattoria.
In March, city officials told restaurateurs in the North End that the fee would apply to owners who want to offer table service outside this year. The payments are needed to address the impacts of Boston’s outdoor dining pilot program on the North End in particular, where narrow streets create traffic and parking issues for residents, officials said at the time. .
Funds raised will help offset issues such as moving trash, rodents, traffic jams and more, according to John Romano, deputy city manager for the Office of Neighborhood Services.
The fee was not imposed on restaurants in other Boston neighborhoods.
The plaintiffs also challenged a policy that costs restaurants an additional $480 per month for each parking space they occupy with outdoor tables, according to WCVB.
The North End restaurant community strongly opposed the charges, and several owners threatened to sue Wu in March. In response, Wu sent a letter to North End restaurant owners saying the city was prepared to cancel outdoor dining in the area if most owners thought the program wouldn’t work for them.
Following the backlash, Wu said the city would allow restaurants to pay the fee in installments.
Restaurants will be able to adapt fees based on their operating hours, paying only for the time they operate outdoor dining, instead of the entire season.
Wu also said a “hardship waiver process” will be introduced to consider factors on a case-by-case basis. These factors could include the location of the restaurant, the size of the patio, and whether the restaurant has a liquor license.
The plaintiffs believe Wu violated their rights to due process and equal protection and treatment, which are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, according to the lawsuit. It also claims that Wu’s actions violated the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution and set up “unfair methods of competition” and/or are “unfair or deceptive practices” in “commerce”.
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