7 Minneapolis bars, restaurants sue city, mayor over ‘vaccine-or-test’ mandate

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Seven Minneapolis bars and restaurants are seeking a temporary restraining order against the city and the mayor in connection with the "vaccine-or-test" mandate that went into effect this week.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter stated the policy, which applies for licensed businesses at which food or drink is served indoors, requires customers ages 5 and older to either show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours of the visit.

Smack Shack, The Gay 90’s, Sneaky Pete’s, Wild Greg’s Saloon, Urban Forage, Jimmy John’s, and Bunkers Music Bar & Grill are listed as the businesses seeking the order, according to the court filing.

"Why would they impose the mandate now? It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense," said Greg Urban, owner of Wild Greg’s Saloon.

Urban says he feels like restaurants and bars are being singled out.

"Think about Home Depot, something like that, Walmart, those places have been packed forever. This doesn’t apply to them," Urban said. "The virus, to the extent it spreads, it spreads anywhere so limiting it to bars and restaurants didn’t make a lot of sense."

Representatives of the businesses argue they "have already suffered greatly and are poised to continue to suffer under the declared emergency and particularly Emergency Regulation 2022-5," the filing states.

The business representatives state that in order to meet the mandate, bars and restaurants in the city "will have to hire additional staff in order to enforce the ordinance, including checking every patron for the complex requirements as between the proof of vaccination or testing," which may be difficult for some employees to determine the validity of, the representatives state.

The seven bars and restaurants named in the filing also state that they anticipate Minneapolis residents and non-residents might instead go to other establishments outside of the city that aren’t required to enforce the mandate.

"Minneapolis bars and restaurants are being used as pawns to further Mayor Frey’s agenda of pushing for and convincing the public to get vaccinated," the filing states. "Whether the end being sought is noble, the scheme is forcing restaurants and bars to lose additional patrons and business that have already been reduced over the past two years and incur new costs and burdens to enforce the requirements of Emergency Regulation 2022-5."

The business representatives say ultimately, the Minneapolis City Council should be the group to enact a mandate via the legislative process.

Minneapolis City Attorney Jim Rowader released this statement in response to the lawsuit:

"The varied course of this public health pandemic has shown that an effective response is rooted in a coordinated approach from all sectors of the city. The surge in transmission and infection caused by the Delta and Omicron variants renews this call to action. It is unfortunate that Plaintiffs are not interested in doing their part.

"We are extremely confident in the Mayor’s authority to enact this regulation—we are still in an emergency. The City Attorney’s Office will vigorously defend this prudent approach to ensuring public health and safety."