A group of Philadelphia restaurant owners on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against Mayor Jim Kenney alleging that his order to prohibit indoor dining because of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases violates their constitutional rights and will devastate them financially.
The 11-page complaint argues that Kenney’s restrictions, which were announced this week and take effect at restaurants on Friday, are arbitrary and not supported by evidence that they will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“COVID-19 does not distinguish between the indoor airspace of other businesses that Defendants, Mayor Kenney and the City of Philadelphia, are allowing to remain operational, such as national big-box chain retailers (e.g. Walmart; Target; Home Depot), and small mom-and-pop businesses, such as barber shops, salons, and daycare centers, in addition to other indoor businesses such as banks, real estate operations, and the Philadelphia court system,” the complaint says.
“The edicts of the ‘Safer at Home’ policies have no relation to nor bearing upon the conduct of business, liberty, and other constitutional rights,” the lawsuit says.
Attorney Brian E. Fritz, who is representing the restaurant owners, said he would make an additional filing on Friday seeking emergency relief.
“We hope a hearing on that will be scheduled promptly. We should have a better sense tomorrow,” Fritz said in an email Thursday evening.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit is identified as “Philadelphia Restaurant Owners Against Lockdown, LLC.” Individual restaurants and owners are not named.
Deana Gamble, spokesperson for Kenney, said in an email: “We are still reviewing the lawsuit. But the prohibition on indoor dining is a critical part of our strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19 at a time when infection rates are surging and hospitalization rates are dangerously spiking. As Dr. Farley noted today, these restrictions are temporary. Death is permanent.”
The new city measures announced Monday to counter rising numbers of infections and hospitalizations close indoor restaurant dining, gyms and museums starting Friday, and require office workers to work remotely except when impossible.
The restrictions will last through Jan. 1, and include limits on outdoor gatherings and a ban on public and private indoor gatherings — making it a violation of city regulations for residents to hold holiday get-togethers with anyone outside their own households.
“There’s no doubt these changes are necessary,” Kenney said at the time.