A bar in Buffalo, NY has won an early ruling against restrictions on live music and ticketed events put in place by Governor Andrew Cuomo in court.
Justice Frank Sedita of the New York State Supreme Court ruled that a ban on ticketing and advertising live events at venues in the state is unconstitutional. The lawsuit was brought by Sportsmen’s Tavern in Buffalo, and is one of several challenges to the forced closure of live entertainment events put in place by authorities.
It is unclear whether or not Sedita’s ruling is applicable to other venues across the state. The State Liquor Authority, which controls the policies governing such venues, issued a statement in response to the ruling.
“We are considering all options, including filing for an immediate stay and appeal. Remember: we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, and with the threat of clusters around the state and cases surging across the country, preventing mass gatherings remains one of the best public health tools in our toolbox.”
New York was the early epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, with more than 30,000 deaths attributed to the virus, largely centered around the densely populated New York City metro area and Long Island. Mass gatherings including sporting events and live music, have largely been without audiences since March, from professional sports franchises like the Yankees and Buffalo Bills down through to small clubs.
The rules put in place with the SLA made it illegal to advertise live entertainment at venues that allowed them, including restaurants like Sportsmen’s Tavern, which filed its lawsuit against the restrictions in August. It also made the sale of tickets for such entertainment unlawful.
Foes of the restriction argue that the banning of advertisement constitutes an illegal abridgement of free speech. They also say that such a ban on performance and compensation via ticketing of events is tantamount to a death sentence for live entertainment venues and performers within the state. While Sedita ruled in favor of Sportsmen’s Tavern thus far, a federal judge recently threw out a case hoping to overturn the restrictions on constitutional grounds.