LAKE COUNTY, Ohio — Eight Northeast Ohio restaurants are suing Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton and Gov. Mike DeWine for their guidelines laid out in the Responsible Restart Ohio initiative.
The eight restaurants include Diamondback Bar and Grill in Harry Buffalo, Islander Bar and Grill, Grayton Road Tavern, Park Street Cantina, Bar 30, Frank and Tony's and Townhall.
In the court filing the restaurants claim that the regulations laid out by the ODH director are "vague" and "unconstitutional." These restrictions, the complaint continues, "expose the restaurant and bar owners to unconstitutional strict criminal penalties [for] conduct of others they have no reasonable control over."
"We understand the seriousness of Covid-19 and that's not what this case is about," says Tom Connick, the lawyer representing the restaurants. "That does not suspend our constitutional rights."
Some of the regulations that the complaint takes issue with are those requiring social distancing and asking customers to stay home or leave if they're experiencing COVID symptoms.
Connick says, "It requires them to enforce these guidelines, these vague guidelines on their patrons and if they don't successfully do it, then they're subject to strict criminal liability."
Case Western law professor, Jessie Hill says it’ll be an uphill battle for the businesses, because states have pretty broad authority when in comes to public health emergencies. However, the courts will have to look to past pandemics and decide if those rules still apply, or where the line is now.
"There isn't a perfect precedent that's going to answer all the questions here," says Hill. "We had a smallpox epidemic around the turn of the twentieth century and so there's a famous supreme court case that comes out of that dealing with the government's power to require everyone to be vaccinated. In some ways, those cases feel a little rusty, they feel a little old. Courts aren't always sure how much they should apply them in this context."
You can read the full civil complaint below: