Pawlenty appointee upholds Minneapolis vaccine mandate 

Nine restaurants sued the city of Minneapolis earlier this month over its vaccine-or-test mandate.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey speaks at the Minnesota DFL's election party in November 2018. (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)

A Hennepin County judge appointed by former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty upheld Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s vaccine mandate on restaurants and bars in a Friday ruling.

“The court finds that the economic harm feared by Plaintiffs does not outweigh the City’s documented public health concerns,” wrote Judge Laurie J. Miller, appointed to the bench in 2008 by Gov. Pawlenty.

Nine restaurants sued the city of Minneapolis earlier this month over its vaccine-or-test mandate. This mandate, issued by the mayor, requires patrons of bars and restaurants to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

In their lawsuit, the restaurants predicted that their customers would simply travel to restaurants in nearby cities where there are no restrictions.

“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 said.

The plaintiffs also argued that the mayor exceeded his authority because there was no “actual emergency” when he issued his mandate. Judge Miller rejected this argument because existing law does not define “when a public health emergency must be found to end,” and the plaintiffs failed to present evidence that there was no “legitimate public health purpose” to Frey’s order.

Judge Laurie J. Miller/Minnesota Judicial Branch

Restaurant reservations are down by 60% in Minneapolis, but Judge Miller said the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that this is a result of the mayor’s vaccine mandate.

“To the extent that sales may have dropped recently from one week to the next, however, Plaintiffs have not submitted evidence, other than their own opinions, to identify the reason for that drop in sales,” she said. “Perhaps some patrons are staying away because they fear the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Perhaps some patrons are staying home due to the weather.”

Frey’s mandate took effect Jan. 19 and will remain in place for 40 days. St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter issued a similar mandate.