NY Comedy Clubs Sue Over COVID-19 Shut Downs

Six small New York theaters and two comedy clubs have sued New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over the city’s ongoing pandemic shutdown of their venues while bowling alleys, restaurants, gyms, rehearsal studios, TV studios including the studio used by Saturday Night Live have reopened, The New York Post reports.

The lawsuit filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York challenges the COVID-19 shutdown, argues that small venues could open safely at limited capacity and shutdown “looks more arbitrary than ever” as other businesses and gatherings have been allowed to reopen, and infringes upon “the right to work, right to contract and right to engage in commerce.”

The lawsuit was filed by the Theater Center, along with Manhattan-based venues the Players Theater, Actors Temple Theater, SoHo Playhouse, the Gene Frankel Theater, the Triad, Broadway Comedy Club and New York Comedy Club, which have all been shut down since March.

“The state continues to govern impartially and arbitrarily by allowing malls, casinos, churches, movie theaters, restaurants, gyms … bowling alleys, ‘Saturday Night Live’, schools and colleges in the state to open, yet small venue theaters in Manhattan continue to be shut down,” the suit states.

The theaters point to New York City’s low infection rate in Manhattan which has remained under 1 percent for months.

“Whatever latitude for constitutionally questionable orders may have existed when the pandemic was new, there is no longer legal justification for prohibiting people from earning a living if they work in or own what a governor deems a non-essential business,” the suit states.

The clubs are seeking a judge to strike down executive orders barring them from holding shows and unspecified damages. According to the lawsuit $1.3 billion is the total economic output of the small venue theater industry and the theaters have “been affected terribly” by the continued shutdown, which has resulted in millions of dollars in lost revenue for the industry and the layoffs of over 8,000 employees in NYC.

In a statement, Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi said he’s lost track of “frivolous suits filed against us” for actions taken to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“We are moving heaven and earth to contain this virus and we know some people are unhappy, but New York continues to have one of the lowest infection rates in the nation, and better to be unhappy than sick or worse,” he said.

About Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith is a newcomer to Washington D.C. She met and married an American journalist and moved to D.C. from the U.K. She graduated with a B.A. in Graphics, Media, and Communications and worked in design and retail in the U.K.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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