After New York City issued a proof of vaccination mandate for employees and customers at indoor restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and gyms starting Sept. 13, a group of New York City restaurants filed a lawsuit with the New York State Supreme Court against the city on Tuesday, calling Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive order unconstitutional, as well as “arbitrary, irrational unscientific, and unlawful.”
The group — calling themselves the “Independent Restaurant Owners Association Rescue” (ROAR) — specifically takes issue with the fact that unlike other cities implementing similar mandates or the city’s own previous executive orders, there is no option for those who want to wear a mask and provide a negative recent COVID test. The lawsuit also points out that the mandate unfairly targets specific businesses but not others that encourage long periods of social interaction (churches, hair salons, schools, etc.)
“It is also an uncontested fact that unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals can both contract Covid-19 and the Delta variant, further illustrating the arbitrariness of this executive order,” the lawsuit reads. “Despite this massive disparity and the minimal number of infections being caused, Mayor de Blasio is still mandating people be vaccinated and show proof of such to participate in everyday society.”
The lawsuit was signed and endorsed by multiple operators including Rocco’s Brooklyn Bakery in Brooklyn and Deluca’s Italian Restaurant on Staten Island.
Other restaurant owners have also expressed skepticism that they would be able to effectively monitor vaccination statuses and worry that the mandates would drive away customers and employees. Mooyah Burgers, Fries and Shakes franchisee Art Depole said that he believes the mandate is already driving away customers and that they’ve seen a 40% decline in sales recently at their Times Square location.
“While we always want to prioritize the health and safety of our guests, I think people need to understand the strain this will put on an industry that, I would argue, has been among the hardest hit during the pandemic,” Depole said in an email Q&A. “Restaurants are in a tough spot being forced to police the issue for the city, and it seems unfair that certain industries are being singled out.”
The city is currently reviewing the group’s lawsuit. In the meantime, de Blasio’s office released guidance this week for the implementation of the “Key to NYC” executive order, which includes the vaccination mandates. The city released a similar bill of rights for customers. Some guidelines include:
- Providing “reasonable accommodations” for those with disabilities who cannot show proof of vaccination, by engaging in a “good faith dialogue” about other options like doing takeout or being seated outdoors.
- Provide “reasonable accommodations” — like working remotely or only working outdoors — for employees that do not want to take the vaccine because they have a disability, are pregnant or will not because of their religious beliefs or in the case of domestic violence.
- The city states that “you do not need to pay your employee during their leave of absence unless you pay other workers who are unable to work for similar reasons.”
- You can request a note from an employee’s medical or service provider when they are asking for accommodations if unvaccinated for any of the above reasons.
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