Manhattan theaters sue Cuomo, de Blasio over Covid restrictions

Lawsuit argues that theaters are being unfairly impacted by pandemic closures

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio (iStock)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio (iStock)

Eight small performing arts venues have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio for closing their spaces during the pandemic.

The lawsuit, which was filed Friday in federal court, seeks to overturn executive orders from Cuomo that have barred theaters from reopening, the New York Times reported. The complaint argues that shutting down the theaters “interfere[s] with plaintiffs’ deeply-rooted liberty and property rights, including the right to work, right to contract, and right to engage in commerce.”

The lawsuit claims that the theaters have been treated unfairly by the government’s restrictions. Other venues, such as bowling alleys, casinos, gyms and shopping malls, have been allowed to reopen, while theaters remain closed, according to the Times.

All of the venues that are participating in the suit have 200 seats or fewer; those include the Gene Frankel Theatre in Noho, the Soho Playhouse in Soho, Broadway Comedy Club in Midtown and the Theater Center in Times Square. Catherine Russell, the general manager of the latter, organized the plaintiffs.

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“Small theaters are much more capable of doing this safely, and if people walk into our theaters and feel safe and protected, they’ll be more likely to see ‘Hamilton’ or ‘Six’ next summer,” Russell told the Times.

In September, over 350 restaurants in New York City filed a $2 billion class-action lawsuit against city and state officials over restrictions on indoor dining, which were later lifted, albeit with occupancy caveats.

A month prior, 1,500 gym owners filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of New York to allow those venues to reopen.

[NYT] — Keith Larsen