Boston is seeking to dismiss North End lawsuit over outdoor dining fight

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The initial lawsuit, which has since been amended, said North End restaurants were discriminated against and faced unlawful fees over outdoor dining and a ban in their neighborhood.

The city is trying to toss a lawsuit filed by North End restaurants over an outdoor dining ban. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

The city of Boston has asked a federal court judge to throw out an amended lawsuit filed by North End restaurants amid their fight over outdoor dining.

An attorney for the city on Friday filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint from the North End Chamber of Commerce and the more than 20 restaurants listed as plaintiffs. The motion argued that the plaintiff failed to state a claim when challenging the city’s restrictions on outdoor dining in the North End. 

Those challenges in the lawsuit, initially filed in January, included claims of discrimination against Italian restaurants by Mayor Michelle Wu, who made the decision in 2023 and this year to exclude the neighborhood from getting on-street outdoor dining permits. 

“In an attempt to manufacture a constitutional violation, the Restaurants allege that the City’s tailored restrictions to address issues in this unique neighborhood are actually a pretext for Mayor Michelle Wu’s animus — a claim that has no support in fact or in law,” the motion read.

The plaintiffs also have claimed that a $7,500 fee the city imposed in 2022 to participate in outdoor dining was “unlawful” and “singled out” restaurants in the North End for making them pay fees that other neighborhoods didn’t. They also said their outdoor dining season was shortened to five months compared to other neighborhoods.

“By contrast, every other participating restaurant in Boston paid no impact fee, paid no monthly parking fees, and enjoyed an eight-to-nine-month outdoor dining season,” the complaint said.

The federal lawsuit seeks damages for “losses sustained due to the imposition” of the fees and the ban itself. 

But the city stressed that the “unique” neighborhood — which has the densest restaurant presence per capita in the state — presents challenges when it comes to allowing outdoor dining, with its narrow streets and sidewalks, parking scarcity, high foot traffic, and the 11,000 residents that call the North End home.

Because of this, the city prohibited on-street dining and allowed on-sidewalk and patio dining. But The Boston Globe reports that many North End restaurants couldn’t use sidewalks for outdoor dining because the sidewalks near their businesses didn’t meet an “adequate” width established by the city. 

In a statement from the North End Restaurant Group about the city seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, they said it did not change how they felt about the city’s decision to leave the neighborhood out of the outdoor dining program.

“We believe that we have been wrongfully singled out by the City as we have laid out in our complaint,” a statement from the North End Restaurant Group said. “All we are requesting is to be treated the same as the other neighborhoods in the City of Boston.”

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