On January 14, 2022, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Fry signed Emergency Regulation Number 2022-5, which brought his previous order into compliance with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the vaccine mandate. The broad order still requires a business to check for proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID test within the last 72 hours (about three days), from their customers.
Businesses that serve food or drink, such as restaurants, coffee shops, bars, sports venues, and other entertainment venues, are all included. The requirement is expanded to include ticketed events on January 26. Not everyone is in favor of accepting the regulation, given some customers are sure to be excluded during a time when the city’s businesses struggle to recover from the last two years of the COVID pandemic. From a practical perspective, they are also concerned that patrons will go to surrounding areas that do not have similar mandates.
A small handful of restaurant owners impacted by the regulation have filed a lawsuit rather than comply with the mandate. Local owners such as Wild Greg’s Saloon Minneapolis and Sneaky Pete’s join national chain Jimmy John’s as part of the seven businesses in the complaint.
The suit has been filed in Hennepin County’s Fourth Judicial Court, and a hearing is set for Monday, January 24, 2022. The restaurant proprietors will ask the court to strike down the order outright or, failing to do that, a rule that injunctive relief pausing the vaccine mandate is appropriate. At the same time, the issue is litigated in court.
The complainants in the case argue that the regulation will increase the economic burden on the businesses, given more staff will be required to enforce the mandate. They also argue that the mayor’s powers have expired under previous emergency orders. The Minneapolis City Attorney disagrees with this analysis and promises to defend the regulation.
It will be enthralling to see how the court considers that the Minneapolis area is currently at its highest levels of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic, but with the less-lethal Omicron variant. In any event, not all businesses in the area agree with the utility of the vaccine mandate.