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Restaurants Sue Over Vaccine Mandate

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Restaurant operators sued Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City over Key to NYC, the new indoor vaccine mandate program, on August 17-the same day the mandate went into effect. A group of restaurants in Staten Island, through the Independent Restaurant Owners Association Rescue (IROAR), brought their claim to the State Supreme Court in Richmond county. The basis behind their lawsuit is that the executive order is arbitrary by imposing an unfair burden exclusively on select establishments, including restaurants, gyms, and certain entertainment facilities, but not on every single public business where people could potentially contract COVID-19. [1] 

IROAR’s lawsuit refers to a December 2020 study done by the governor’s office, which revealed that only 1.4% of COVID-19 cases in New York state were caused by someone contracting the virus in a restaurant. In comparison, 74% of infections were contracted in a private home (this number was also released from the governor’s office). [2] 

Another basis behind the lawsuit is that the vaccine requirement is unfair to those who either “cannot ‘or should not’ get the required shot.” The lawsuit argues that the city should be permanently blocked from imposing a vaccine mandate for this reason and that officials have yet to address the rights of New York City residents or visitors who fall under this category as the city has not made exemptions or set alternatives. [3] As seen in both the city’s Key to NYC webpage and Frequently Asked Questions PDF, there is still no explanation on what businesses should do for people who cannot get vaccinated. 

IROAR also further calls the mandate arbitrary because both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals can contract COVID-19, especially so the Delta variant. One of the lawyers, Mark Fonte, has stated that “[r]estaurants are basically being forced to act. They’ve been deputized as law enforcement arm for the mayor against their will.” The restaurants say they have been irreparably damaged by COVID restrictions. [4] There have been no further updates to this case as the city has still not responded to the lawsuit.

The case is Independent Restaurant Owners et al v. Bill de Blasio, and the index number is 85155/2021. 

[1] Peter Romeo, “NYC RESTAURATEURS SUE TO BLOCK THE CITY’S VACCINE MANDATE”, Restaurant Business, 19 Aug. 2021, https://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/operations/nyc-restaurateurs-sue-block-citys-vaccine-mandate, acc. 27 Aug. 2021.

[2] Reuters Staff, “New York City restaurants lose indoor dining as infection rate rises”, Reuters, 11 Dec. 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-new-york/new-york-city-restaurants-lose-indoor-dining-as-infection-rate-rises-idUSKBN28L2F0, acc. 27 Aug 2021. 

[3] Peter Romeo, “NYC RESTAURATEURS SUE TO BLOCK THE CITY’S VACCINE MANDATE”, Restaurant Business, 19 Aug. 2021, https://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/operations/nyc-restaurateurs-sue-block-citys-vaccine-mandate, acc. 27 Aug. 2021.

[4] Chris Dolmetsch, “NYC Businesses Sue De Blasio for Requiring Vaccination Proof”, The Washington Post, 19 Aug. 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/nyc-businesses-sue-de-blasio-for-requiring-vaccination-proof/2021/08/18/64bd0618-003b-11ec-87e0-7e07bd9ce270_story.html, acc. 27 Aug. 2021.

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