BOSTON (WHDH) - North End restaurant owners are protesting over outdoor dining rules in Boston.

The city’s outdoor dining program was started in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, restaurants in the North End were able to take part in the program, which owners credited with helping their businesses survive the pandemic.

Upon taking office, Mayor Michelle Wu made alterations to the program, first imposing special fees on restauranteurs in the North End due to challenges with congestion, traffic, pedestrian access to sidewalks, and trash pickup, then last year banning outdoor dining in the North End altogether. This angered business owners, who began their protests.

On Friday, many of them took to the streets to renew their call for Wu to allow outdoor dining this summer, which they say would even the playing field and treat them fairly compared with owners in other parts of the city.

“We’re not just a neighborhood of Italian-Americans,” said restaurant owner Jorge Mendoza-Iturralde. “We’re a neighborhood of hard-working people. We employ over 6,000 people in the neighborhood from all walks of life, from all income brackets. We believe that the actions from the mayor handicap us in providing for our businesses, reduce our income in the fruitful season of the summer, and devalue our seats.”

Mendoza-Iturralde said the restaurant owners in the area have lost millions of dollars by not having access to outdoor dining; they filed a federal lawsuit against the city hoping to recoup some of this money and to have the rules changed.

Wu said the rules are set and she doesn’t anticipate any changes, but that she welcomes further analysis.

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