Restaurant owners believe Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is using them as “pawns” to push his own agenda, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in Hennepin County.
The lawsuit challenges Frey’s vaccine mandate on small businesses, which took effect Wednesday and requires patrons of bars and restaurants to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
The plaintiffs in the case include Smack Shack, The Gay 90’s, Sneaky Pete’s, Wild Greg’s Saloon, Urban Forage, Jimmy John’s, and Bunkers Music Bar & Grill.
Their lawsuit points out the many contradictions and “burdensome” requirements included in Frey’s order. For instance, the restaurant industry will be forced to “hire additional staff in order to enforce the ordinance.”
“Plaintiffs anticipate not only having to hire the additional staff, but the staff having difficulty determining valid vaccination cards, forgeries, appropriate tests, language barriers, and time periods, not to mention having to deal with members of the public that are combative or argumentative,” it states.
The plaintiffs also predict that their customers will simply travel to restaurants in nearby cities where there are no restrictions.
Minneapolis does provide an alternative means of entering a restaurant in its testing option but doesn’t allow for the use of at-home test kits, despite the federal government’s massive campaign to promote at-home testing.
On top of this, to establish a valid test result, the sample must have been collected “within three calendar days prior to the person’s entry” — another requirement that staff will have to validate.
“This requirement creates an absurdly limited window in time for a person to actually be able to obtain and use the results of a COVID-19 test. Most tests require 1-2 days to produce a result from the date the sample was collected. As a result, this leaves a prospective patron with likely just one day, at most maybe two, in which the test result can actually be used,” the lawsuit says.
Additionally, the complaint argues that there was no “actual emergency” at the time of Frey’s order, since COVID-19 rates in Minneapolis “were falling significantly.” New cases peaked on Jan. 6 at 1,319 cases and then dropped to 242 new cases on Jan. 13 — the day after Frey announced the new mandate.
All of this leads the plaintiffs to conclude that the vaccine mandate is “calculated and purposed to attempt to prod the general public toward vaccination.” They believe they are being “singled out” to perform a “function wholly unrelated to their business or licensures.”
“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,” the lawsuit concludes. “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 of Emergency Regulation 2022-5.”
St. Paul has a similar vaccine mandate, but it will reportedly impact fewer restaurants.