Minority restaurant owners in NYC serve Cuomo, de Blasio a lawsuit on a platter

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Attorney Ken Belkin holds up a copy of the complaint served.
Photo by Dean Moses

Minority restaurant owners served Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio with a lawsuit Wednesday morning over the continued ban on indoor dining amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

President of the New York State Latino Restaurant, Bar and Lounge Association Jeffrey Garcia met with attorney Ken Belkin on Jan. 27 moments after the paperwork had been handed in at the Attorney General’s office at 28 Liberty St. in Lower Manhattan. 

Flanked by business owners who have faced financial hardships due to the governmental dining restrictions put into place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pair hope this effort will help expedite the reopening process.

“We just finished serving Governor Cuomo with a federal lawsuit and our issue right now with indoor dining being closed,” Garcia announced.

President of the New York State Latino Restaurant, Bar and Lounge Association Jeffrey Garcia and attorney Ken Belkin demanded that the Governor and Mayor take immediate action in opening indoor dining for restaurants. Photo by Dean Moses

This lawsuit demands that restrictions preventing eateries from serving customers inside their premises be immediately lifted, as well as allowing bars, lounges, and cafes to similarly re-open without delay. Holding up legal documents, attorney Belkin argued that black and brown businesses have been disproportionately affected by the Governor’s virus precautions.    

“We served this complaint on behalf of 70 small businesses operating within the city of New York. For many small businesses, this is a fight for their survival. This is the first shot in this battle. These people are essential and they deserve to be able to work and put food on their tables,” Belkin said.

Belkin also hammered home the point that the food industry is not the only one suffering during the pandemic, adding that other businesses are included in the lawsuit such as yoga studios.   Immediately following this address, Belkin and Garcia drove to 1 Centre St. where they also served the Mayor’s office with the complaint.

Attorney Ken Belkin serves a second complaint to the mayor at one Centre Street. Photo by Dean Moses

Governor Andrew Cuomo was questioned about the lawsuit from minority restaurant owners during a virtual press conference that same day. Cuomo shared that he is not surprised by the lawsuit since other organizations have also been issuing similar legal actions. 

“I understand that this has been economically devastating for a number of businesses, the restaurants included. So, I want to get them up and running as quickly as possible,” Cuomo said. 

He hinted that restaurants could soon reopen at 25% capacity regulation, but at the moment this is not set in stone and will be announced in a more detailed agenda on Friday.                                 

“By the way, also remember the state has an economic, not to be overly pragmatic, interest in opening restaurants. That’s sales tax revenue for the state, and I’m begging, provoking, prodding the federal government for $15 billion. I also want to get our revenues back up and opening up restaurants and opening up businesses generates more revenue. So which means we are less dependent on the federal aid. We will have an announcement by the end of the week, but we are looking at going back to 25%, that would be the question. That would be the question and how and when do we do that,” Cuomo said.

An outdoor eating area in the East Village on Jan. 26, 2021.Photo by Dean Moses