Small business owners sue Minnesota, say categories to shutter businesses are unconstitutional

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A group of small business owners announced they're suing the state Wednesday, claiming Gov. Tim Walz's categories of "critical sector" and "essential" "non-critical exempt businesses" are unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.

The businesses represented in the lawsuit include Trev's Kitchen, Prestige Gymnastics, Title Boxing Clubs, Yoga by Blisstopia and others, according to a release.

Dan McGrath spoke on behalf of the organization called 'Free Minnesota' and he told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the goal of the lawsuit is to reopen businesses across Minnesota immediately.

"It is a Constitutional question, but it is also a matter of fairness," said McGrath. "The small mom-and-pop shops cannot sell any sneakers right now, but the big-box stores can sell sneakers and they are in a better financial position to weather this storm."

He added that smaller businesses should be able to operate under social distancing guidelines.

"We can mitigate the risks of COVID-19 while still respecting the rights of our citizens and preserving our crucial small businesses," McGrath said.

Walz expected to discuss next steps in state's 'stay at home' order Thursday

In the lawsuit, the businesses claim they are essential, too, and should be able to stay open just like the government and other businesses.

They also claim Walz is operating outside his powers by suspending some and not all economic activity for an arbitrary and indefinite period of time. An attorney representing the group said the various categories of businesses weren't based on any defined public health or economic standard.

"There is a chance the governor will start to re-open parts of  Minnesota soon," said McGrath. "We would welcome that, but the lawsuit will stay in place until every Minnesota company, big and small, is allowed to reopen."

Walz has said he'll continue to reopen businesses slowly as the pandemic continues. The state's 'stay at home' order is set to expire May 4 but Walz is expected to make an announcement regarding a possible extension of the order later this week.

The Governor's Office released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

"The Governor understands how hard this pandemic is on Minnesotans and their businesses. The virus has forced the state to take drastic action, but it’s action that is within the Governor’s authority. It is also in line with federal guidance and very similar to what other states are doing. All of the Governor’s actions have been grounded in the need to protect the health and safety of Minnesotans, and he will continue to work to find ways to get Minnesotans back to work safely."