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Cuomo rep rips ‘frivolous lawsuits’ as desperate restaurant owners sue over rules pushing them towards closure

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Dozens of restaurants and bars in upstate New York are suing Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo over his perpetual COVID-19 lockdowns, with one owner claiming if they are not allowed to open, theirs and other businesses will “slowly deteriorate” and close.

In an interview with “Fox & Friends” on Thursday, Paul Santora, owner of Santora’s Pizza Pub and Grill in Erie County, blasted the lockdowns and said, “for us, it’s all about equality in being open.”

“It’s losing a holiday season,” Santora told the Fox News morning show, noting that eateries in the western portion of the state consists of eight counties, but that only Erie County is locked down under “orange zone” conditions.

“Everywhere else in our district and everywhere around us basically are operating fully and [are] having the best season of their careers, and right around the corner from us it’s the same way,” he added.

Santora said he isn’t allowed to have customers dine-in because of Cuomo’s COVID orders, though New York health officials just released contact-tracing data indicating that bars and restaurants only accounted for about 1.43 percent of all cases in the three-month period that ended in November.

In orange zones, indoor dining is banned, so cafes, bars, restaurants, and other eateries are only permitted to serve via takeout and delivery.

“For us, we really need the message to be consistent,” Santora said. “One day they’re going and they’re concentrating on percentage rates of positive cases and shuts us down to orange, and then all of a sudden it changes the hospital beds and it keeps us in orange.

“It just seems to be slated to one county and one area and one specific business,” he continued in reference to the restaurant industry while every other type of business is “wide open.”

As such, many Erie County residents are patronizing restaurants in neighboring Niagara County, which the state has listed as a “yellow zone” where indoor dining is allowed, Fox News reported.

Santora has joined with dozens of other restaurant and bar owners in upstate New York who are fighting the indoor dining ban via lawsuits targeting Cuomo.

WKBW-TV noted Monday that, according to the owners of another business in the region that is involved in suing Cuomo, a judge “is telling the state to reach a compromise on bars and restaurants or provide scientific evidence to support COVID-19 restrictions on the businesses.”

Corey Hogan, Santora’s attorney, told Fox & Friends that when he and his client were last in court they cited New York State had indicated that bars and restaurants were only accountable for a minuscule number of COVID cases from September through November.

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“These were figures that Gov. Cuomo himself had mentioned in his Dec. 11 press conference,” Hogan said. “He’s the one that indicated to us that numbers are numbers, they don’t lie.

“And we suggested to the judge, forgetting the constitutionality issues, let’s just look at the fairness of it,” he told the morning show. “The state itself has admitted that restaurants are not the problem. Gov. Cuomo said that. He also said hair salons are not the problem. They’ve been closed down. Now they’ve been allowed to open.

“So we said to the judge, ‘Judge, this doesn’t make any sense. There’s no justification from the scientific perspective, from an industry perspective, from a medical perspective, from a legal perspective to keep restaurants closed. They’ve been closed for five months out of the last ten months, please let them open’ and he suggested that we come back to court,” Hogan continued.

A spokesman for Cuomo’s office, asked to comment on the lawsuit, was dismissive.

“We get sued virtually every day for virtually every action taken during this pandemic, and frankly I’ve lost track of all the frivolous suits filed against us,” the spokesperson told Fox News. “We know some people are unhappy, but better to be unhappy than sick or worse.”

Jon Dougherty

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