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Judge Denies Temporary Restraining Order Targeting Minneapolis' Vaccine Requirement At Restaurants, Bars

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - The request for a temporary restraining order against the city of Minneapolis, which would have prevented the city from enforcing the vaccine-or-test requirement at restaurants and bars, has been denied by a judge.

Seven restaurants joined forces last week and filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing "irreparable" economic harm due to the new order, which requires all patrons of bars and restaurants to be vaccinated or to have tested negative for COVID-19 within the past 72 hours.

The restaurants include Smack Shack, Sneaky Pete's, Jimmy John's, Bunkers Music Bar & Grill, The Gay 90's, Wild Greg's Saloon, and Urban Forage.

RELATED: Judge Hears Arguments In COVID Mandate Lawsuit By Minneapolis Restaurants Against City

They argued that the mandate required them to hire and train new employees to check vaccine cards and tests at a time when they were already struggling to hire workers. There would also be lost profits from patrons who refused to comply with the mandate, they said.

But the judge found the plaintiffs' evidence of economic harm to be "speculative," and said in part that they are already required to check cards of patrons to confirm they are old enough to drink alcohol. "This is simply another card to be checked," the memorandum reads.

Additionally, the judge found that Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minneapolis City Council have the authority to manage a public health crisis, and noted the rise in cases in December to early January, which were three times as high as the spike in November of 2020.

Minneapolis Assistant City Attorney Mark Enslin said on Wednesday that even if the restaurants could establish financial harm it "has to be weighted against the health and safety of the citizens of Minneapolis and its visitors."

The judge, in the end, wrote that she expects the city to work with the restaurants to provide guidance and training in identifying legitimate vaccine cards and tests.

"The City is pleased with Judge Miller's decision in this case," said Minneapolis City Attorney Jim Rowader in a statement. "At the end of the day, the City has been and continues to be focused on helping everyone in our community -- residents and businesses -- safely navigate this incredibly challenging time."

Legal analyst Joe Tamburino says the ruling's not surprising. He believes the judge made the correct legal decision.

"The mayor has emergency powers. The mayor declared an emergency and then the city council basically okayed it," Tamburino said. "Once that happens, a mayor has a lot of power and can impose such rules."

The owner of Wild Greg's, Greg Urban, said of the ruling, "The city of Minneapolis continues to follow the political science that has turned a vibrant and prosperous city into a ghost town. Although the TRO was not granted the lawsuit will continue and we believe we will be successful in overturning this example of government overreach."

Frank Rondoni, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said "Plaintiffs are obviously disappointed in the court's ruling. With due respect to the court, plaintiffs believe that the court should have focused more on the Minneapolis City Council declaring a continued emergency and departure from its own rules for the COVID-19 pandemic that has unfortunately been a part of our lives for nearly two years.  The city council has now extended this self-declaration of an emergency suspending its own democratic processes indefinitely.  Moreover, the decisions of the council and the court come as COVID-19 rates continue to fall precipitously in the city of Minneapolis, while the harm to its restaurants and bars only continues to mount. Just today I received an unsolicited email from a business owner client asking to move our downtown dinner meeting out to the suburbs since he cannot comply with the city ordinance. The harm to Minneapolis seems to far outweigh any perceived gain. Terribly disappointing for Minneapolis employers and employees."

Not all Minneapolis restaurants have experienced the financial damages the plaintiffs claim to.

Morgan Hawley, the director of operations at Nicollet Diner, said customers have been supportive.

"It was a little tough, especially in the early going [of the requirements], but I think winter and Minnesota being what it is, people are ready to get out again and they're starting to realize they need to support their local establishments," he said.


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