Minneapolis restauranteurs sue mayor over vaccine mandates, claim they are being ‘used as pawns’

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More than a half-dozen restauranteurs in Minneapolis united last week in a joint suit targeting Mayor Jacob Frey over recently instated vaccine mandates.

The city announced on Jan. 12 that any establishment serving food indoors must require patrons to show either proof of receiving the COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative test result from the last 72 hours.

The order, which went into effect Wednesday, prompted swift legal action from restaurants who allege the mayor has overstepped his authority, according to a report from Fox News affiliate, KMSP.

The complaint states the emergency resolution “is calculated and purposed to attempt to prod the general public toward vaccination… Minneapolis bars and restaurants are being used as pawns to further Mayor Frey’s agenda of pushing for and convincing the public to get vaccinated. Whether the end being sought is  noble, the scheme is forcing restaurants and bars to lose additional patrons and business that have already been reduced over the past two years and incur new costs and burdens to enforce the requirements.”

The action seeks a declaratory judgment from the Court finding that the emergency resolution issued by Frey on Jan. 14 restricted their rights as restaurant owners by requiring them to verify COVID-19 vaccine or testing status.

Greg Urban, owner of Wild Greg’s Saloon, told KMSP the mandate unfairly targets the hospitality industry.

“Here we are, two years later, going on to the third year, and we are still facing restrictions that target us and only us,” Urban said. “We just don’t think it’s fair.

The restaurants ask the Hennepin County Fourth Judicial Court to find Fey’s emergency vaccine order “null and void.”

Francis Rondoni, one of the attorneys representing the group of restaurant owners, stated, “Jacob Frey does not have the power to do what he did. You cannot just act by edict or fiat, as they say. There’s a legislative process that has to occur and he bypassed that.”

Rondoni insists that his clients are not anti-vaxxers, they simply want to be treated the same as other businesses in the city. On top of that, he notes, there’s the issue of enforcement.

“To put bar owners in a situation where they are arguing with patrons about whether they can get in or not is also a safety issue,” he said.

In a response to the lawsuit sent to Fox 9, Minneapolis City Attorney Jim Rowader stated, “The varied course of this public health pandemic has shown that an effective response is rooted in a coordinated approach from all sectors of the city. The surge in transmission and infection caused by the Delta and Omicron variants renews this call to action. It is unfortunate that Plaintiffs are not interested in doing their part.”

“We are extremely confident in the Mayor’s authority to enact this regulation,” Rowader continued, stressing that “we are still in an emergency. The City Attorney’s Office will vigorously defend this prudent approach to ensuring public health and safety.”

In a separate response, the Office of Mayor Frey stated, “Mayor Frey’s approach is straightforward: keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed and keep our valuable small businesses open. That is precisely why he moved forward with this temporary and flexible approach in anticipation of the rising case numbers and hospitalizations. Doing nothing in the face of clear public health data was not an option.”

Business owners, however, argue that there is currently no emergency that warrants such a vaccine requirement. Indeed, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz allowed a statewide peacetime emergency to expire in July 2021.

The complaint against Mayor Frey reads, “COVID-19 has been a pandemic for over nearly [sic] two years, and while certainly tragic in its effects upon society during that time, developments have occurred reducing its emergent nature.”

A hearing is scheduled for Monday.

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