LAKE COUNTY, Ohio — Beachwood-based Connick Law filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of eight restaurants and bars, most of them located in Northeast Ohio, against Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton and Governor Mike DeWine.
The complaint, filed in Lake County Common Pleas Court, argues the state’s coronavirus-related orders mandate that "restaurants and bars in the state of Ohio enforce unconstitutionally vague regulations and laws against their patrons, and, which if not enforced, expose the restaurant and bar owners to constitutional strict criminal penalties and/or reprisal for the conduct of others that they have no reasonable control over.”
The complaint uses the example of patrons who wait in line to be seated, moving closer to each other or removing or navigating around any barrier to a distance of less than 6 feet, which then “subject the restaurant and bar owners to strict criminal liability for the acts of their patrons.”
"If somebody gets up out of their seat at the restaurant, what are our clients supposed to do, grab them and put them back in their seat?" asked Tom Connick, one of the attorneys representing the restaurants.
The plaintiffs include Diamondback Bar and Grill in Eastlake, Cleveland-based Harry Buffalo, Townhall, and Willoughby’s Frank and Tony’s.
Dine-in service resumed for bars and restaurants across the state on May 21. Connick Law attorneys argue that some of the requirements placed on restaurants remain vague, and those requirements could end in the seizure of liquor license, which the complaint calls “unconstitutional and/or unauthorized.”
The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages. Instead, attorneys hope the court will block enforcement of the rules.
"Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic is a national health emergency and we're all very sensitive to that," said Connick. "What we're saying is that does not suspend our constitutional rights."
The case has been assigned to the Lake County Common Pleas Court Judge John R. O’Donnell.
Read the full complaint here.