N.Y. restaurants sue to reopen, point to low infection risk from indoor dining
UPDATED 10:10 AM PT – Friday, January 1, 2021
New York restaurant owners have filed multiple lawsuits in recent weeks aiming to restore their businesses, which have been largely shuttered during the pandemic.
The most recent suits were filed this week as restaurant owners said they’re frustrated by the frequent rule changes that keep them from offering indoor dining. Many of these restaurants are operating in the state’s orange zones, which limits the businesses to outdoor dining, takeout or delivery.
With forecasts for the state putting temperatures just above freezing, outdoor dining is fading as an option.
Owners have argued the standards for orange zone restrictions continue to change, basing closures on positive COVID-19 cases one day and then to available hospital beds the next. They also said data shows less than 1.5 percent of COVID-19 spread is due to restaurants, with a majority of the spread being blamed on private gatherings.
“So the question is, these extreme actions of shutting down, basically shutting down these restaurants for in-service dining, in-house dining, is it reasonable under these circumstances? The economic impact upon the business owner and all the employees, is that reasonable in light of the extremely low rate of transmission occurring,” Attorney Adam Gee asked.
A group of around 40 restaurant owners in the northern part of New York have sued to allow their businesses to reopen. Reports said a judge is telling the state to reach a compromise, or provide the scientific evidence to support the restrictions.
“It takes a toll personally, with my family, with my children. You know Christmas this year was extremely difficult, almost embarrassing. I felt shame like I can almost not, you know, afford to take care of my family,” Brandon Carr, owner of the Quarter said. “We still have to find a way to replenish all of our food, find new staff, come up with new payroll systems and everything.”
In New York City, the hospitality alliance has argued an indoor dining ban is doing more harm than good, saying around one thousand restaurants have closed and tens of thousands of industry jobs have been lost.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D-N.Y.) office has reportedly indicated the state is facing multiple lawsuits regarding the restrictions.