STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo could soon be facing a class action lawsuit from several restaurant owners outraged over the citywide ban on indoor dining.
“We’re fighting to survive,” says Thomas Casatelli, the Owner of Ho’Brah in the West Brighton section of Staten Island. “We feel we are being unjustly punished because we are restaurants. We’ve seen restaurants a few short miles away, a few zip codes away that are open for indoor dining, and we’re still not.”
Outdoor dining at Casatelli’s Mexican restaurant has been a hit with customers. But he fears the city’s reluctance to allow indoor dining due to the pandemic could be a death sentence for many small business owners, who are struggling to stay afloat.
“If we aren’t inside when it’s cold,” says Casatelli, “in a month or so, many of us will be forced to close our doors, and many of us will never reopen! That’s a fact.”
At a rally Thursday outside Ho'Brah, two attorneys who are based on Staten Island said they are putting together a class action lawsuit on behalf of restaurant owners here and in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
The lawsuit will contend that the mayor and governor have exceeded their authority by banning indoor dining in New York City, when it's permitted on Long Island, Westchester, and most other regions statewide.
“How out of touch is the governor saying it’s a small inconvenience that you guys can’t open your restaurants. A small inconvenience?” said attorney Louis Gelormino. “If that’s not a slap in the face, I don’t know what is.”
“What does the mayor care?” said attorney Mark Fonte. “He gets his paycheck, but small businesses are suffering, and it’s time to end that suffering, and it’s time to bring a lawsuit!”
At Thursday’s rally, some of the signs held by supporters urged the mayor and governor to “Stop The Double Standard.”
And even though the city's COVID-19 infection rate this week hit its lowest point since the start of pandemic, de Blasio and the city's Health Commissioner say for now, no timeline will be given for when indoor dining can resume.
“We have to see a lot more improvement in fighting this virus before we consider it because it’s literally one of the most sensitive pieces in the whole equation,” the mayor said.
“We have seen, you know, in many places around the world, how indoor dining has been tied to outbreaks and in some places resurgences as well,” says Dave Chokshi, the recently appointed NYC Health Commissioner.
At this time, it is not clear when that class action lawsuit might be filed.