A group of businesses, ranging from bars to a bowling alley, have filed a lawsuit against Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State Legislature and Attorney General, claiming they have been unconstitutionally harmed as the result of actions taken during the pandemic and slow reopening of the state's economy.
The lawsuit, filed Friday, seeks to have the respective plaintiffs reopen and recover financial losses as the result of what they consider unfair restrictions.
"The constitutions of the State of New York and the United States of America are not abandoned or thrown to the side during times of emergency. But that's exactly what our government has done," said attorney Steven Cohen of Hogan Willig, the firm representing the plaintiffs. "The governor has been ruling by fiat since his first executive order in March of 2020. Since then, he has issued dozens of executive orders. And he's acting without the benefit of the wisdom of the legislature, without their imprimatur, and the legislature seems fine with that. They have actually delegated their legislative authority to the governor. And that's in contravention to the very basic doctrine of separation of powers."
Named as plaintiffs are the owners of Bimber's Delwood bar, Bison Billiards, Five Star Lanes bowling alley, Four Aces Bar and Grill, Karate Ken's martial arts school, Pharaohs gentlemen's club, Soonertunes Productions (disc jockey and karaoke provider), The Body Shop gentlemen's club, and the Cowboy of Chippewa bar.
Some of the establishments have reopened, but Cohen tells WBFO they've faced difficulties by authorities.
"Many of my clients are open on a limited basis, and they've been exercising COVID-19 protocols, well in excess of that which is required by the state. Yet the New York State Liquor Authority and the health department have come in and threatened them with closures, and has repositioned their tables, and has told them they can't have entertainment," he said. "And they've interfered with operations."
The bowling and billiard businesses participating in the lawsuit await guidance from the state as to when they may reopen. Although "toss/bowl" games are identified in the state's Phase Four guidelines, the language within the document doesn't specifically identify bowling alleys.
The lawsuit also targets the Attorney General, Letitia James, for what it deems her inaction to keep the governor's power in check.
"This is about the United States and New York State constitutions and the fact that they are the law of the land," Cohen said. "They cannot be pushed aside by our governor, and our attorney general is sworn to uphold those constitutions. She has failed to do so."