A group of Staten Island restaurants and other businesses are suing Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city over the executive order signed this week mandating that all customers and employees must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to enter their establishments.
The suit, which was filed Tuesday in Staten Island court, was brought by Independent Restaurant Owners Association Rescue (IROAR) along with Pasticceria Rocco, DeLuca’s Italian Restaurant, Evolve-33, Max’s Esca, and Staten Island Judo Jujitsu. They call the vaccine mandate “arbitrary, irrational, unscientific, and unlawful.”
“These restrictions have severely and irreparably damaged small businesses all over the City,” the lawsuit states about previous lockdowns, mask mandates and other restrictions over the course of the pandemic. It goes on to decry the “arbitrary and capricious” nature of the current mandate, “due to the fact that it targets certain establishments but not others with no rational what so ever.”
When the city first announced the initiative, known as Key to NYC, it only applied to dining indoors at restaurants, working out at the gym, and attending indoor entertainment venues. The mayor has since expanded the policy to include nightclubs, pools, all city museums, and other cultural institutions. However, as the lawsuit points out, it excludes a host of other indoor-only businesses such as barber shops, hair salons, office buildings, and more.
The lawsuit states that the executive order is unfairly and haphazardly deployed, and it “impinge[s] on and significantly interfere[s] with the right to pursue a lawful calling and livelihood. The Executive Order has rendered it impossible for anyone who chooses not to be vaccinated, for whatever reason, to work in the designated industries, wholly depriving them of their livelihood.”
Enforcement of the mandate, which was signed by de Blasio on Monday, won’t begin until Sept. 13th.
The lawsuit already has the support of a handful of local Republicans, including Representative Nicole Malliotakis and City Council member Joe Borelli—both of whom held a press conference in early August declaring their intent to sue the city over the announced mandate—and prospective gubernatorial candidate Andrew Giuliani.
“I applaud the Independent Restaurant Owners Association lawsuit again de Blasio’s vaccine mandates!” Giuliani tweeted. “Every private business and their customers should choose the terms of their patronage, NOT government and certainly not the incompetent de Blasio!”
“It is beyond ridiculous that the government is mandating these already struggling small business owners to be the city’s ‘vaccine police,’” Malliotakis added in a statement.
When asked about the lawsuit during his morning press conference on Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio said he felt confident with the city’s legal position on the mandate.
“We’re in a global pandemic still,” he said. “The decisions that have been taken have been taken with the leadership of our health officials, who have been fighting this battle from the beginning.”
“We know we must get more people vaccinated and strategically focusing on the ways to get more people vaccinated, particularly focusing on young people where there’s been a real gap so we can stop the spread of the delta variant, is mission critical,” he added. “It is about public health and safety. I’m absolutely certain this is the way we achieve those goals, do it in a smart way, a fair way, based on the data and the science.”
While restaurants such as Pasticceria Rocco have loudly rejected the mandate—they put the sign in the Instagram above up in their window this month declaring their intent to disobey the order—many more have accepted the vaccine mandate as necessary, so long as they can avoid another shutdown entirely.
“There are a lot of differing opinions about the vaccination requirement among restaurant owners,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. “We’ll see how the court rules and take it from there, but in the meantime, we need to do everything to avoid harsher restrictions like those we saw throughout the pandemic, do our best to keep workers and customers safe, and fight for more policies to support our city’s restaurants, like replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.”