Boston Mayor Michelle Wu a no-show to North End meeting on outdoor dining

North End restaurateurs behind a lawsuit claiming the city has shown ill-will toward them by imposing restrictions on outdoor dining will have to wait longer to meet with the mayor to discuss how they can find a compromise.

Hundreds of community members – restaurant owners, employees and residents – from the neighborhood packed Saint Joseph’s Hall, hoping Mayor Michelle Wu and other elected officials would turn out, but they did not.

“We haven’t heard anything from the city,” said Carla Gomez, owner of Terramia and Antico Forno. “We just want a dialogue, communication, to talk about the issues. That’s all we want.”

The owners of the 21 neighborhood restaurants who filed a complaint in federal court in January against the city closed their businesses down for two hours Thursday afternoon as they continued to protest the restrictions.

Officials are banning on-street dining for the second straight year, limiting the al fresco option to “compliant sidewalk patios.” Out of Boston’s 23 neighborhoods, the North End is the only one to encounter restrictions against their will.

A mayor’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a Herald request for comment Thursday, and City Councilor Gabriela Coletta, whose district includes the North End, declined to comment, citing hesitancy.

Resident Ann Bushnell said she’s supporting the restaurateurs because she believes they are pivotal community pillars as they assist the neighborhood library and schools. There has to be a point in time when the mayor or city officials will meet with the restaurateurs behind the lawsuit, she argued.

“I don’t think the mayor likes confrontation so this isn’t something she’s comfortable with,” Bushnell told the Herald, “but this is life and this is politics. You’re going to have people with different opinions, and you’ve got to learn to grow with the flow and shake their hands at the end of the day.”

In 2022, officials forced restaurateurs to pay a $7,500 fee for outdoor dining operations, funds that restaurateurs allege the city used to purchase an electric street sweeper that’s been seen in other neighborhoods.

Wu and other officials have said the restrictions were aimed at reducing quality of life burdens to residents, such as the increased noise, trash, traffic and loss of parking that came with outdoor dining there.

But restaurateurs have fought back against those claims, with data they’ve gathered through Freedom of Information requests showing that other neighborhoods are more congested and have fielded more 311 complaints regarding cleanliness.

“It is beyond my comprehension why we were able to successfully operate in ’21 and ’22 without any major issues by all accounts,” Tresca co-owner Bill Galatis told the Herald, “and all of a sudden we’re told we’re banned in 2023 and 2024. There’s a disconnect there.”

A task force of officials, North End restaurateurs, and residents examined “potential pathways forward” to providing on-street dining in the future raised concerns heard in the past, factoring into this year’s ban.

Possibilities include allowing the option only on weekends but the season would be shortened with limited hours; an annual lottery system for limited participation; and a program allowing smaller patios.

Some community members have wondered why Jorge Mendoza-Iturralde, co-owner of Vinoteca di Monica, a lead plaintiff, is accusing Wu of discriminatory treatment towards Italians since he immigrated here with his family from Argentina in 1984.

Mendoza-Iturralde told the Herald Thursday that his grandmother on his mother’s side is from Italy and that he and his family instantly “fell in love with the neighborhood.”

“I am in this battle for my people in the North End because of the other people who made my success possible,” he said. “We were adopted by the community. I have a great deal of gratitude towards the North End, and I’m going to continue to fight for what I think is right for the North End.”

A sign tells passersby of the meeting at Monica's as restaurant owners and workers hold a meeting on outside dining at St. Joseph's Hall on March 28. (Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald)
A sign tells passersby of the meeting at Monica’s as restaurant owners and workers hold a meeting on outside dining at St. Joseph’s Hall. (Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald)


Source link


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *