Judge says New York State must compromise on COVID-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants

Posted at 3:20 PM, Dec 28, 2020

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — The owners of The Quarter in Buffalo and Pharaoh's Gentlemen's Club in Cheektowaga, both involved in a lawsuit against Governor Andrew Cuomo, say a judge is telling the state to reach a compromise on bars and restaurants or provide scientific evidence to support the COVID-19 restrictions on the businesses.

The owners are two of 40 bar and restaurant owners involved in a lawsuit against the state to reopen indoor dining.

In Erie County's orange zone, as with orange zones across the state, indoor dining is not allowed. In State Supreme Court on Monday, the owners say Judge Nowak stated if there is no compromise by next Monday, the state must provide scientific evidence by Tuesday as to why restaurants and bars must remain closed to indoor diners.

Thirty-seven Western New York restaurants filed a lawsuit against Governor Andrew Cuomo and other legislative and health officials in the state regarding shutdowns in Erie County’s Orange Zone December 24th. Other restaurants, including Duff's, have joined the lawsuit since.

Brandon Carr, the owner of The Quarter, and Peter Gerace, president of Pharaoh's Gentlemen's Club, both said they have lost the right to earn a living.

Attorney Steve Cohen and others at HoganWillig represent the restaurants and their owners, saying the governor’s closure of indoor dining is unconstitutional. Attorneys said this infringes on owners' rights to earn an honest living. Carr estimated the Quarter has lost $400,000 since March.

Cohen said the government can’t do keep indoor dining shut down because it’s been statistically shown restaurants are not the cause of the COVID-19 spread.

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

Gerace said the attorneys found that between all 40 restaurants named in the lawsuit, there was not a single case of COVID-19 connected to the restaurants through contact tracing.

On December 11th, during his press briefing, Governor Cuomo said bars and restaurants, state-wide, account for only 1.43% of COVID-19 cases. Cuomo said 73.84% of COVID-19 cases come from household or social gatherings.