WNY restaurants in court to challenge dine-in ban

Jan 8, 2021

A group of over 70 area restaurants will head back to State Supreme Court Friday in hopes of reversing the governor’s executive orders which have shuttered the doors to customers. 


Credit Santora's Pizza Pub & Grill

Religious institutions, tanning salons, gyms, hair stylists and even laser tag arenas have been successful in the courtroom in their push backs against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pandemic shutdowns. 

Attorney Steven Cohen of the firm HoganWillig represents Western New York restaurant owners in their quest to welcome back dine-in guests. He believes not only is the governor overstepping his bounds, but so are varying state agencies. 

“Such things as, they didn't have two sides of the tent open wide enough. Or the diners, the people who came in to dine, didn't finish their food by 10 p.m.,” said Cohen. “These are things that are ordinarily out of the purview of the State Liquor Authority. But all of a sudden, the governor is enforcing his edicts by using all of the tools at his disposal.”

The state has on its own relaxed restrictions after threat of or while under legal challenge, but Cohen is hopeful this time a judge gets to decide.

“We are in a constitutional crisis and we need some clarity,” Cohen said. “The executive and legislative branches have failed us miserably. Hopefully, the judicial branch will be able to bring some clarity and sanity to what's going on now.”

The lawsuit was brought following the patio and takeout-only restriction put in place after Erie County’s designation as an orange zone for COVID-19. Cohen said the latest numbers show less than 1.5% of virus spread is coming from restaurants statewide.