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North End restaurant owners file $1.5M lawsuit against Michelle Wu for $7,500 outdoor dining fee

Boston Herald 5/10/2022 Rick Sobey, Boston Herald

North End restaurateurs still have a beef — or Bolognese — with the city’s “unconstitutional” $7,500 outdoor dining fee, as four Italian restaurant owners filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Mayor Michelle Wu on Monday.

The city for the first time this year handed down a North End-only $7,500 fee in response to local residents complaining about the outdoor dining noise and clutter. As a result, a group of restaurant owners began protesting the mayor, and promising this lawsuit against her.

The owners from the four restaurants are all paying the “unconstitutional” outdoor dining fee “under protest” to compete with other dining spots, they wrote in the U.S. District Court lawsuit.

Last month, the restaurant owners had warned Wu that they would sue for $1.5 million if she didn’t rescind the North End fee. Now, the owners are seeking $1 million in punitive damages and $500,000 in compensatory damages.

“A declaration that Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights were violated and an order requiring proper and equitable relief,” their attorney wrote in the lawsuit.

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The restaurateurs own Vinoteca di Monica, Terramia Ristorante and Antico Forno, Rabia’s Dolce Fumo, and Monica’s Trattoria. Jorge Mendoza owns Vinoteca di Monica, and last week he ran at the last-minute for a City Council seat in the special election — which was won by East Boston resident Gabriela “Gigi” Coletta. Mendoza has said he will next run against Wu.

After the mayor initially announced the fee and the city received blowback from some owners, she said the city would allow for “hardship waivers” based on size of the restaurant and location in the neighborhood, potentially dropping the fee by a few thousand dollars for certain restaurants.

Wu rolled that out in a press conference with some administration-friendly North End restaurant owners. But the anti-Wu restaurant owners were upset with the closed-door press conference, again promising a lawsuit and saying the changes weren’t welcome.

A spokesperson for the city of Boston wrote in an email Monday evening, “We’re going to decline comment given the litigation.”

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