Not-so-happy meal: Restauranteurs sue Boston mayor for $1.5M over claims of racial bias

An addendum has been added to a lawsuit filed nine months ago against Boston Mayor Michelle Wu for $1.5 million asserting that she is biased against white, Italian restaurant owners on the northside who are being charged $7,500 for an outdoor dining permit.

(Video Credit: WCVB Channel 5 Boston)

Five restaurateurs in Boston’s predominantly Italian North End neighborhood have united in going after the leftist mayor. The original lawsuit was filed in the fall of 2022 over the outrageous fee being charged for the businesses to have outdoor dining during the summer while it was free in the rest of Boston, according to the Daily Mail. The amended suit was filed Tuesday.

The $7,500 fee was allowed to be paid in installments and in some instances, it was reduced depending on the size of the restaurant. It resulted in a payday of $800,000 for the city.

In response to the charges of bias, the mayor seems to have doubled down. Her office announced that in the North End, on-street dining will no longer be allowed and sidewalk dining will be limited to establishments with “adequate” sidewalk width.

Starting in 2023, restaurants in other neighborhoods will be forced to pay somewhere between $199 and $399 per month, predicated on whether or not they have a liquor license, in order to have outside dining.

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

The plaintiffs include Jorge Mendoza, owner of Vinoteca di Monica; Carla Gomes, owner of Terramia Ristorante and Antico Forno; Christian Silvestri, owner of Rabia’s Dolce Fumo; and Patrick Mendoza, owner of Monica’s Trattoria. Prominent North End restaurant owner, Frank DePasquale has also thrown his support behind the suit.

“It’s upsetting for us to be discriminated against. It’s a flaw to Italians,” DePasquale told the Boston Globe.

“We do not want to sit in the back of the bus, we want to sit in the front of the bus with everybody else,” Monica’s Trattoria co-owner Jorge Mendoza told 7 News Boston. “We want to have the same opportunity.”

The suit is pointing to the mayor’s “All Inclusive Boston Campaign” as evidence of anti-white and anti-Italian bias. The campaign allegedly does not mention the North End at all and it doesn’t feature any Italian Americans. The only white men in the ad campaign are Boston Red Sox players.

The outdoor dining program was put in place early in the pandemic. It was meant to improve business at struggling restaurants. It has been made permanent now with stricter rules that apply to the North End.

“Outdoor dining expanded as a way to keep our businesses open during the pandemic, and has turned into a popular opportunity to enjoy our streets and each other’s company,” Wu declared in a February statement.

“Our restaurant community is a key part of what makes Boston so special and what makes people want to come visit our neighborhoods,” Wu said, defending her policy according to 7 News Boston. “We need to make sure first and foremost that Boston and every other neighborhood is a place for the people who live there.”

City officials claim that the North End has a maze of narrow streets and therefore has special issues that are subject to different rules.

People from all over the world visit the North End to dine. It has the highest concentration of restaurants in the state with 95 establishments in just over one-third of a square mile.

The suit also recounts Mayor Wu making a joke at the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in South Boston in 2022 where she quipped, “I’m getting used to dealing with problems that are expensive, disruptive, and white.”

However, the complaint doesn’t mention that Wu ended the joke with a disingenuous clarification, “I’m talking about snowflakes, snowflakes, snowstorms… snowflakes.”

Nick Varano, who is the owner of Strega restaurant in the North End, was incensed over the city’s plan.

“I believe it’s not very fair, and it puts us at a disadvantage with other neighborhoods in the city,” he reportedly told the Boston Herald during an interview in February.

“We’ve taken what we learned over the last couple of years to inform the permanent program, and we’re committed to working with our neighborhoods to make this program a success,” Wu proclaimed in February.

The North End plaintiffs are seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages, as well as $1 million in punitive damages.

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