Pa. County Says Eatery Defying Mask Mandate Can't Operate

By Lauren Berg
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Law360 (September 17, 2020, 10:03 PM EDT) -- Allegheny County's health department asked a Pennsylvania state judge Wednesday to shut down a Pittsburgh restaurant that keeps defying a statewide face-covering mandate during the coronavirus pandemic and refuses to close, despite county orders to shut down.

The Crack'd Egg has repeatedly violated orders from the commonwealth and the Allegheny County Health Department requiring its employees and patrons to wear face coverings while in the restaurant and refuses to institute social distancing measures, according to the county's complaint and emergency motion for a preliminary injunction that were made public Thursday.

Since June, the health department has received a number of complaints about The Crack'd Egg, and in July, when officials repeatedly inspected the restaurant, they observed employees and patrons not wearing face masks, according to the motion. On returning in August several times, health department officials observed both food safety violations and COVID-19 violations, including employees and patrons not wearing masks and outdoor seating not being spaced apart appropriately, the motion said.

Because of this "imminent danger to the public health," the health department suspended The Crack'd Egg's permit to operate and ordered the restaurant to close, according to the motion. But the restaurant has defied orders to shut down and has continued to serve customers, the health department said.

The health department said that because exposure to COVID-19 poses a significant public health hazard, the county will suffer "immediate and irreparable harm" unless the court shuts down The Crack'd Egg.

"It cannot be overstated that [The Crack'd Egg]'s refusal to act in conformity with the [closure order] constitutes an immediate public health risk to the extent that it is exposing the public to a highly infectious, communicable disease caused by a new coronavirus not previously seen in humans," the health department said.

The complaint alleges a violation of Pennsylvania's COVID-19 Control Measure Order requiring universal face coverings and other mitigation measures and violation of a permit suspension. It seeks to stop the restaurant from operating until it files a COVID-19 compliance plan with the health department, as well as civil penalties.

According to the Allegheny County Health Department, the county has seen 11,510 cases with 366 deaths, as of Thursday. The highest percentage of cases in the county are in people 20 to 29 years old, the department's website says.

As of Thursday, there have been more than 6.6 million cases reported in the U.S. and nearly 200,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California, Texas and Florida lead the country in cases, the agency's data shows.

Representatives for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

The county is represented by Michael A. Parker and Vijyalakshmi Patel of the Allegheny County Health Department.

Counsel information for the restaurant was not immediately available.

The case is County of Allegheny v. The Cracked Egg LLC, case number GD-20-9809, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

--Editing by Breda Lund.

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