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7 restaurant, bar groups sue Minneapolis over dining vaccine mandate

"Minneapolis bars and restaurants are being used as pawns..." the lawsuit said.

More than half a dozen restaurant owners are suing Minneapolis and its mayor over a recently enacted vaccine-or-test rule for local bars and restaurants. 

The rule, which went into effect Wednesday, requires customers to show proof of vaccination or a covid-negative PCR or antigen test in order to dine in at restaurants or bars. 

But Thursday's lawsuit says the requirement asks too much of not only customers, but also the bar and restaurant owners.

Filed on behalf of the owners of Smack Shack, The Gay 90s, Sneaky Pete's, Wild Greg's Saloon, Urban Forage, Jimmy John's and Bunker's Music Bar & Grill, the suit alleges that Minneapolis bars and restaurants are "being used as pawns to further Mayor (Jacob) Frey's agenda of pushing for and convincing the public to get vaccinated."

The filing also describes the rule — officially known as Emergency Resolution 2022-5 — as a "calculated and purposed to attempt to prod the general public toward vaccination."

It also takes aim at the hurdles diners must jump over in order to comply with the rule, citing the following part of the city's policy:

Starting Jan. 19, everyone entering an establishment that serves food or drink in Minneapolis must show proof of either being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or having a negative PCR or antigen test taken within three days.

The lawsuit calls the three-day requirement for providing a negative covid test an "absurdly limited window" of time, and goes on to criticize the fact that businesses are responsible for enforcing the mandate — saying employers will have to hire more staff to check customers for proof of vaccination or negative test. 

But the underpinning of the lawsuit's main legal argument is that the pandemic is not an "unprecedented" emergency (which city code requires of an order like Frey's Emergency Resolution 2022-5), noting that it's been underway for two years and that Gov. Tim Walz's covid-era emergency powers ended last July.

The suit calls Frey's decision to issue 2022-5 a "misuse of mayoral power."

Minneapolis and St. Paul are both currently experiencing the highest levels of COVID-19 seen since the start of the pandemic, with hospitals once again close to capacity levels thanks to the highly-transmissible omicron variant.

While omicron has been found to be able to evade COVID vaccines to an extent, the vaccinated – and particularly the boosted – are still much less likely to contract the virus than the unvaccinated, while the window for transmissibility is believed to be shorter in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated.

Hennepin County is currently showing a 14-day case rate of 241 cases per 10,000 people, easily the highest it's been since the pandemic started.

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Nonetheless, the bars and restaurants are asking the court to declare that 2022-5 is "invalid" under city law, and to issue a "permanent injunction" that would prohibit the city from requiring businesses to enforce the mandate. 

The City Attorney's office told KARE 11 that the city would "vigorously defend" 2022-5 in court. 

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