North End

North End Restaurants Claim Discrimination in Suit Over Boston's Outdoor Dining Rules

Some restaurant owners in the North End are suing Boston, accusing Mayor Michelle Wu of discriminating against Italian-Americans because it won't allow on-street outdoor dining in the neighborhood — a decision many North End residents have applauded because of congestion of the narrow streets

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Owners of some of the restaurants in Boston's North End are suing the city over its new outdoor dining regulations, accusing Mayor Michelle Wu of discriminating against Italian-Americans.

It's the latest chapter in the outdoor dining drama that has been playing out in the neighborhood.

Last year, North End restaurants were charged $7,500 to take part in the pandemic-era program, as well as monthly fees of $458 per parking space used for seating.

The city announced last month that tables can't be set up on the streets of the North End this year. Restaurants will be able to apply for private and sidewalk patio dining, but sidewalks must meet certain space requirements for patio space, and Hanover Street does not.

"Literally last year, we were $15,000 in the hole before we could sell a plate of spaghetti," said restaurant owner Christian Silvestri.

He and other owners have filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming they have been discriminated against because of their Italian heritage.

"How do you just take it away from the North End and just the North End? It makes no sense," Silvestri said.

North End residents, however, have applauded the city's decision to take dining tables off the neighborhood's busy, narrow streets.

"It's not discrimination, it's not a disadvantage, you know why? Because people come from around the world to eat in the North End," Darlene Romano, a lifelong resident, said last month.

There is mixed reaction between North End residents and restaurant owners after Boston said the on-street outdoor dining would not be available this year in the neighborhood.

In the restaurant owners' discrimination suit, they say the All Inclusive Boston ad campaign, meant to drive tourism during the pandemic, does not include any Italian-Americans or any white men besides Red Sox players.

"She excludes the North End from everything she does," Silvestri said.

"I won't comment on ongoing litigation that the city's involved in, but I will say that we stand fully behind decisions that are to ensure residents can live in their neighborhoods with ease of access, safety and opportunity," Wu said Wednesday.

The owner of Caffe Paradisio says she supports the restaurant owners, but after last year's complaint that the fees were unconstitutional was dismissed by a judge, she's not spending money on another legal battle.

"Yes, it's unfair, I agree with that," said Adrian Destefano. "But spending the money, at this point? She's not going to change her mind."

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