CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Are the state’s restaurant regulations regarding Covid-19 vague, and are the criminal penalties that can be enforced for failure to follow the regulations unconstitutional?
The courts will decide after a lawsuit was filed in Lake County against Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Health Director Dr. Amy Acton.
Beachwood attorney Thomas Connick is representing Eastlake’s Diamondback Bar and Grill, The Harry Buffalo in Cleveland, The Islander Bar and Grill in Middleburg Heights, Cleveland’s Grayton Road Tavern, Townhall in Ohio City, Parma’s Bar 30, and Frank and Tony’s in Willoughby.
“When there is criminal penalties to something we need to know what they are, as individuals in this society, otherwise it’s unconstitutional,” Connick said. “Here they’re vague, they’re not defined and they are arbitrarily enforced."
The lawsuit asks the courts to provide a preliminary injunction to eliminate the regulations, and subsequently, the criminal penalties.
A key point, according to Connick, is that criminal enforcement should be legislated by the Ohio General Assembly.
“They can get their liquor license seized, shut down, and that’s unconstitutional,” Connick said.
Connick said his clients understand the significance of the pandemic, but that vague guidelines, and the penalties that follow impede the rights of restaurant owners to run their businesses.
“if they were to do something more to define what needs to be done, then that would be acceptable but they’re not doing that,” Connick said. “They haven’t done that, and they can’t have criminal penalties tied to it.”
When asked to respond, the state said that they declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
All of the restaurants involved in the lawsuit, Connick said, have received a written or verbal warning from their local health departments, and the restaurants were concerned enough, he said, that they decided to file the lawsuit to protect their businesses.
“We need to let our clients conduct their businesses the way it needs to be conducted in a manner that it should be allowed to,” Connick said. “We’re not seeking damages.”
The Park Street Cantina in Columbus has also joined the lawsuit.