New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was sued by a group of small business owners who say requiring all customers and employees to show proof of vaccination against COVID will severely impact their livelihoods.
The suit was filed Tuesday in state court in Staten Island by the Independent Restaurant Owners Association Rescue, or IROAR, a group representing about 50 businesses in Staten Island and the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn. They’re seeking a court order blocking the requirement, which went into effect Monday and applies to indoor restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues.
The businesses, including Pasticceria Rocco, DeLuca’s Italian Restaurant, and Staten Island Judo Jujitsu, called the requirement irrational and questioned the efficacy of vaccines. It is “an uncontested fact that unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals can both contract COVID-19 and the so-called ‘delta’ variant, further illustrating the arbitrariness of this executive order,” they said in the complaint.
“Restaurants, and gyms too, have borne the brunt of the the pandemic mandates,” said Mark Fonte, a lawyer for the group. “Restaurants are basically being forced to act. They’ve been deputized as law enforcement arm for the mayor against their will.”
Though breakthrough infections among the vaccinated have become a growing concern, statistics show unvaccinated individuals have a far a greater chance of getting infected, becoming seriously ill and dying, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
De Blasio declined to comment on the lawsuit. During a Wednesday briefing he said the city has “tremendous confidence” that it is in a solid legal position to implement the mandates.
The suit cites statistics from December, before the more contagious delta variant emerged, showing that most of the state’s infections came from social gatherings in private homes. The businesses also argued that they were unfairly targeted, because other establishments where people congregate, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and churches, are not covered by the mandate.
Fonte said the lawsuit has drawn support from local Republican politicians, including U.S. Representative Nicole Malliotakis and Vito Fossella, a former Congressman running for Staten Island borough president. Malliotakis and Fossella couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
The suit alleges that COVID restrictions have “severely and irreparably damaged” businesses throughout the city, which have been “struggling to bounce back” since Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted all limits in mid-June.
The case is Independent Restaurant Owners et al v. Bill de Blasio, 85155/2021, Supreme Court of New York, County of Richmond
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