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Restaurants sue Mayor Frey and Minneapolis over vaccine mandates

Seven restaurant owner groups filed the complaint, calling the vaccine and testing mandate in Minneapolis a "misuse of mayoral power."

MINNEAPOLIS — The same week a sweeping vaccine and testing mandate hit bars and restaurants across the Twin Cities, a group of restaurant owners are suing the city of Minneapolis and Mayor Jacob Frey, calling the mandate a "misuse of mayoral power."

The restaurant owners include Smack Shack, Wild Greg's Saloon, The Gay 90's, Sneaky Pete's, Urban Forage, Bunker's Music Bar and Grill along with all the Jimmy John's in Minneapolis. 

The complaint said the mandates are contradictory to science and put extra burden on the industry which has suffered over the last three years of the pandemic. 

The lawsuit does not name St. Paul or its mayor, Melvin Carter, which also imposed similar mandates at the same time.

Greg Urban, owner of Wild Greg's Saloon, said he believes they will get a judge's order in favor of their lawsuit as early as Friday.

He added that he doesn't believe the mandate will be short-lived and further burdens restaurant workers.

"We all heard two weeks to slow the spread right? So we’ll see on that," Urban said. "We're confident we're going to get granted the injunction as early as today and then this all ends right now."

Since Wild Greg's Saloon hosts parties as a venue, Urban said his enforcement of the mandate won't start until Jan. 26. 

"Last thing I want is one of my employees in a fist fight with someone over whether they can be allowed in without a vaccine card," Urban added.

For bars and restaurants, the mandate started on Wednesday.

Urban said it is concerning for businesses to enforce the mandate, as employees are already in short supply.

"This mandate makes this out so we are basically given the duty to enforce this and, you know, it's really troubling," Urban told KARE11.

The lawsuit alleges that the City of Minneapolis is overstepping by singling out restaurants and hospitality businesses and that it contradicts the science around testing.

If people do not show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 at a bar or restaurant in Minneapolis, they must show a negative antigen or PCR test within 72 hours. The lawsuit alleges it is unethical to mandate this because at-home COVID tests are the most accessible, while lab tests have inconsistent turnaround times.

"It’s very clear that this is being used as a way to coerce people to getting the vaccine, and I think it’s a terrible way. A lot of people don’t respond well to being forced," Urban said.

City Attorney Jim Rowader told KARE 11 in a statement the vaccine mandate is an effective response, requiring an approach from all sectors of the municipality.

"The surge in transmission and infection caused by the delta and omicron variants renews this call to action," Rowader said. "It is unfortunate that plaintiffs are not interested in doing their part."

"The City Attorney's Office will vigorously defend this prudent approach ensuring public health and safety," he wrote.

The plaintiffs in the suit are seeking a permanent injunction for the mandate, which Mayor Frey called temporary.

WATCH: New vaccine mandate met with mixed reactions in the Twin Cities