This is no laughing matter.
That’s the message the owners of the comedy club Stand Up NY are sending to Gov. Andrew Cuomo with a new lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court, that challenges the “arbitrary and unconstitutional decision” to keep such venues closed during the pandemic.
The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, alleges that because what the plaintiffs call “comparable businesses” can operate — it namechecks “Saturday Night Live,” Jimmy Fallon’s talk show and wedding venues — comedy clubs should be allowed to open, too.
Stand Up NY says that because of the closure, it’s lost money and has furloughed all but one of its workers.
Similar to other lawsuits filed by business owners challenging Covid-related lockdowns, this one argues that the closure of comedy clubs violates the businesses’ First Amendment rights, as well as the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
James Mermigis, who is representing Stand Up NY, said that comedy venues “have fallen through the cracks” and that Cuomo “cannot curtail” the club’s constitutional rights.
Representatives for Cuomo did not respond to a request for comment.
Comedy clubs have been calling on Cuomo to give them the green light to open for months. In September, the owners of several New York City comedy clubs gathered during a rally, urging the Governor to allow reopening.
In October, eight small performing arts venues filed a lawsuit against Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio for closing their spaces during the pandemic.
However, ever since restaurants have been able to up their capacity to 35 percent, efforts have intensified, resulting in the most recent lawsuit.
Other venues have similarly taken the legal route to encourage reopening. Restaurants sued repeatedly for the right to reopen for indoor dining. Gyms planned to file a class-action suit against Cuomo, and were given the go-ahead to open weeks later.