Minneapolis, Mayor Frey sued over vaccine mandate

Multiple Minneapolis restaurants have banded together to sue the City of Minneapolis and Mayor Jacob Frey, alleging the recently imposed vaccine requirement mandate overreached authority.

Plaintiffs in the complaint filed in Hennepin County Fourth Judicial Court Thursday include Bright Red Group, LLC (owners of Smack Shack), 90’s Minneapolis, LLC (The Gay 90’s), PJ. Hafiz Club Management, Inc. (Sneaky Pete’s), Urban entertainment, LLC (Wild Greg’s Saloon), Urban Forage, LLC (Urban Forage), and MikLin Enterprises, Inc. (Jimmy John’s) and I & E Inc. (Bunkers Music Bar & Grill).

According to the complaint, the emergency resolution "is calculated and purposed to attempt to prod the general public toward vaccination… Minneapolis bars and restaurants are being used as pawns to further Mayor Frey’s agenda of pushing for and convincing the public to get vaccinated. Whether the end being sought is noble, the scheme is forcing restaurants and bars to lose additional patrons and business that have already been reduced over the past two years and incur new costs and burdens to enforce the requirements."

The action seeks a declaratory judgement from the Court finding that the emergency resolution issued by Frey on Jan. 14 restricted their rights as restaurant owners by requiring them to verify COVID-19 vaccine or testing status. 

A hearing on a temporary restraining order is scheduled for Monday. 

Hospitality industry 'targeted'

Greg Urban owns Wild Greg's Saloon, and tells FOX 9 the mandate unfairly targets the hospitality industry.

"Here we are, two years later, going on to the third year, and we are still facing restrictions that target us and only us. We just don't think it's fair," said Urban. 

Greg Urban, Wild Greg's Saloon owner

Francis Rondoni is one of the attorneys representing the group of business owners. 

"Jacob Frey does not have the power to do what he did. You cannot just act by edict or fiat, as they say. There's a legislative process that has to occur and he bypassed that," said Rondoni. 

He insists his clients aren't anti-vaccine, and just want to be treated the same as other businesses in the city. On top of that, there's the issue of enforcement. 

"To put bar owners in a situation where they are arguing with patrons about whether they can get in or not is also a safety issue," said Rondoni. 

RELATED: Vaccine mandate has restaurant owners divided

City's response: ‘Keeping our hospitals from being overwhelmed'

In response to the lawsuit, Minneapolis City Attorney Jim Rowader sent FOX 9 the following statement: 

The varied course of this public health pandemic has shown that an effective response is rooted in a coordinated approach from all sectors of the city. The surge in transmission and infection caused by the Delta and Omicron variants renews this call to action. It is unfortunate that Plaintiffs are not interested in doing their part.  

We are extremely confident in the Mayor’s authority to enact this regulation – we are still in an emergency. The City Attorney’s Office will vigorously defend this prudent approach to ensuring public health and safety.

The Office of Mayor Frey also sent FOX 9 a statement in response to the lawsuit: 

"Mayor Frey’s approach is straightforward: keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed and keep our valuable small businesses open. That is precisely why he moved forward with this temporary and flexible approach in anticipation of the rising case numbers and hospitalizations. Doing nothing in the face of clear public health data was not an option."

Timeline: COVID-19 in Minnesota

On March 13, 2020, Gov. Tim Walz issued an emergency executive order declaring a peacetime emergency in response to the COVID-19.

On March 16, 2020, Mayor Frey declared a local public health emergency due to COVID-19, invoking the emergency executive authority section of the Minneapolis Emergency Operations Plan which permits a mayor limited powers, including the authority to impose curfew hours and require certain businesses within the City of Minneapolis to temporarily close. However, the ordinance does not specifically allow the mayor to restrict the operations of restaurants.

On July 1, 2021, the statewide peacetime emergency was declared to have ended, but the City of Minneapolis has subsequently determined to extend its emergency declaration in order to provide a planned, phased elimination of its emergency regulations.

COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Minnesota: What to know