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The Mass Media

The North End’s war against Mayor Wu

Brothers+Pat+and+Frank+Mendoza+stand+proud+outside+of+Monica%E2%80%99s+Trattoria%2C+a+restaurant+they%E2%80%99ve+owned+in+the+North+End+for+26+years.+Photo+by+Dom+Ferreira.
Dom Ferreira
Brothers Pat and Frank Mendoza stand proud outside of Monica’s Trattoria, a restaurant they’ve owned in the North End for 26 years. Photo by Dom Ferreira.

A conflict, brewing since the deadly emergence of COVID-19, is crawling its way back into the limelight through a series of protests by slighted restaurant owners. From Boston’s North End, an area known for its myriad of Italian restaurants that pack the streets, restaurant owners are taking up arms against Boston Mayor Michelle Wu amidst claims of unfair and discriminatory practices. 

According to an article from the Boston Herald, the conflict arose in 2022, when the Wu Administration mandated restaurant owners to pay a $7,500 fee in compensation for outdoor dining. This only escalated with outdoor dining being officially banned in 2023, with permission for sidewalk patios but not on-street dining. [1] The crux of the conflict lies with only North End restaurants being subjected to these caveats. However, in a statement from Wu’s Administration, quoted by CBS News, officials claim that because the North End has “high density… narrow streets, sidewalks, resident parking scarcity, and other issues” outdoor dining beyond sidewalk patios is not feasible for the neighborhood. [2]

Despite this, restaurant owners have not let up. As of Jan. 4, 21 owners situated in North End along with the North End Chamber of Commerce have sued the city over both the fees and the ban on outdoor dining. [7] In an incendiary protest at Paul Revere Mall, March 8, restaurant owner Jorge Mendoza-Iturralde, of the Vinoteca di Monica, stated “this is a slap in the face” in response to the Wu Administration’s mandates. Behind a mock dining set up, both Mendoza-Iturralde and fellow restaurant owner of the Terramia Ristorante, Carla Gomes, expressed their grievance toward Mayor Wu and the city. [4] 

“What is the root of her position?” Mendoza-Iturralde asked during the protest filmed by NBC10. “Why hasn’t she taken the chance to talk with us?” Trailing this is the belief that the ban and fees are made not based on infrastructure concerns but on perceived racism towards Italian Americans, reports Boston.com. [3] “We have became known as the little Italy in Boston,” Gomes states, adding that the ban and fees have caused “our businesses an economic hardship, where some businesses are barely hanging on.” [4]

The subsequent bans and fees by Mayor Wu have left North End restaurant owners feeling spited, as if they’ve been “left out in the cold,” according to Gomes. However, despite this feeling of abandonment that owners are feeling, it contrasts with the words being hurled against Mayor Wu. “Amateur,” as reported by the NBC, is the word constantly used by restaurant owners toward Mayor Wu, with statements of ridicule cast at her ability to lead and operate the city. [5]

On the horizon, the conflict doesn’t seem to have a concrete resolution. Mayor Wu claims that the policies are made in good faith and a necessity for the health of the North End, yet restaurant owners are assured in the belief that her actions are done maliciously. The recent protest during the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade illustrates how the caustic atmosphere brewing between these two parties is far from settling. [6]

 

Sources

[1] https://www.bostonherald.com/2024/03/07/the-north-end-is-at-war-with-mayor-michelle-wu-restaurant-owner-says/amp/

[2] https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/boston/news/boston-outdoor-dining-restaurants-2024-north-end/

[3] https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2023/03/08/north-end-restaurant-owners-claim-discriminated-lawsuit/?amp=1

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxONhwEk5ao

[5] https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/other/north-end-restaurant-owners-fed-up-with-outdoor-dining-restrictions-call-wu-an-amateur/ar-BB1jy4lb

[6] https://www.msn.com/en-us/travel/news/north-end-restaurant-owners-protest-outside-st-patrick-s-day-breakfast-we-re-disgusted/ar-BB1k3L5u

[7] https://www.universalhub.com/2024/north-end-restaurant-owners-revive-charges-mayor

About the Contributor
Dom Ferreira, Photo Editor