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37 local restaurants sue governor over orange zone restrictions

Posted at 4:51 PM, Dec 24, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Thirty-seven Western New York restaurants are suing Governor Andrew Cuomo and other legislative and health officials in the state regarding shutdowns in Erie County’s Orange Zone.

“We need to open,” said Paul Santora, owner of Santora’s Pizza Pub & Grill.

These restaurants tell us they’re hoping for a Christmas miracle.

Prominent local attorney Steve Cohen and others at HoganWillig are representing the restaurants and their owners, saying the governor’s closure of indoor dining is unconstitutional. Attorney’s say this infringes on owner’s rights to earn an honest living.

“Before you deprive someone of a constitutional right, they’re required by law to show a rational basis for doing so,” Cohen said.

Cohen says the government can’t do this because it’s been statistically shown restaurants are not the cause of the COVID-19 spread.

“We have several arguments, each of which should win the day,” he said of the suit.

“For restaurants to be the only cause of this situation is unfathomable and it doesn’t make any sense,” Santora said. “We just want to open. Niagara County, right down the street from us is wide open, and we’re finding 30-40% of people from Erie County are going there,” he said.

For John Bona III, owner of Amherst Pizza & Ale House it’s a similar story.

“We just want to have the opportunity to interact safely, and provide a service for our community,” he said. “It’s frustrating, sad, and we hope that it changes.”

A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo says, “We get sued virtually every day for virtually every action taken during this pandemic, and frankly I’ve lost track of all the frivolous suits filed against us. We are moving heaven and earth to contain this virus and we know some people are unhappy, but better to be unhappy than sick or worse.”

The Erie County Health Department says, “Once any documents about this legal action are received by the county attorney’s office, they will review and respond to the court as needed after the holiday. “