Four North End restaurant owners say the $7,500 fee they had to pay to extend their restaurants to the public sidewalk is just horribly unfair and so they filed a federal lawsuit against the city today.
Jorge Mendoza, owner of Vinoteca di Monica on Richmond Street, Patrick Mendoza, owner of Monica's Trattoria on Prince Street, Carla Gomes, owner of Antico Forno and Terramia Ristorante, both on Salem Street, and Christian Silvestri, owner of Rabia's Dolce Fumo on Salem Street, allege the fee, which applies to many but not all restaurants in the North End, violates their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection as well as their rights under the commerce clause.
Jorge Mendoza and Gomes are also parties to a separate suit over Boston's now canceled indoor masking requirements, in which they are claiming they need to be paid $6 million for the alleged harm that did to them.
Both lawsuits were filed by Lynnfield attorney Richard Chambers in US District Court in Boston.
In today's suit, first reported by NBC Boston, the four allege that the city never even consulted with them before levying the general fee - plus a small fee for the use of parking spaces - although they do acknowledge the city did form a committee of other North End restaurant owners, but that even in those meetings, city officials never mentioned fees.
The program is a continuation of one started in 2020 to help restaurants survive the pandemic; this year, the city said that, unlike in other neighborhoods, North End restaurants were charged $7,500 for the season plus a fee for the parking spaces to pay for the extra cleanup and policing requirements they say come from the unique configuration of the city's most restaurant-dense neighborhood.
The four restaurant owners acknowledge they paid the $7,500 fee, but only because not doing so would put them at a competitive disadvantage with other North End restaurants - some of whose owners appeared at a city press conference to support the fee idea.