Eateries Say Ill. Gov Can't Keep Declaring COVID-19 'Disaster'

By Celeste Bott
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Law360 (October 30, 2020, 7:23 PM EDT) -- A group of Illinois restaurants sued the state's governor, saying Gov. J.B. Pritzker unlawfully issued multiple declarations to extend his emergency powers and enable him to ban indoor dining in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Shakou, Pazzi Di Pizza and other Chicago-area restaurants claim in their Illinois state court lawsuit Thursday that the clock ran out on the emergency powers that would allow Pritzker to order them to cease indoor dining in April, yet that's exactly what the governor ordered on Oct. 27.

The restaurants say they don't dispute that Pritzker had the power to declare a "disaster" in March, which triggered his emergency powers for 30 days. But the next eight declarations he made extending those powers are "predicated on the exact same disaster, COVID-19," they said.

That ninth declaration on Oct. 16 was what allowed the governor to shutter restaurants for indoor dining, and in issuing it, "and thereby extending his thirty-day emergency powers beyond 225 consecutive days, Gov. Pritzker has engaged in acts far beyond the powers granted to him by the legislature," the eateries said.

They're asking a court to proclaim that Oct. 16 declaration and the subsequent Oct. 27 indoor dining ban void, saying that if there is no "disaster" that would allow the governor to exercise emergency powers under the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, he can't force them to close their doors.

"The IEMAA does not authorize Gov. Pritzker to declare a 'disaster' to manage an existing 'disaster' for an additional 30 days, and certainly not ad naseum," the restaurants said in their complaint.

They're also asking a Cook County court to order that the Illinois Department of Public Health is the authority in "matters of quarantine, isolation, closure and making property off limits," according to the lawsuit.

"Plaintiffs do not dispute the department has the authority to restrict a citizen's movement or activities and/or forcibly close the business premises if circumstances give rise to a sufficient public health risk, but this authority is not unbridled," the eateries said.

And under the Illinois Department of Public Health Act, owners of places that are ordered to be closed by the state must be given written notice that includes reasons for the order and the "anticipated duration" of the closure, they argued.

The state's failure to give that notice on the restrictions of the restaurants' property renders any attempted enforcement of those restrictions invalid, they said.

Representatives of the parties could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.

The restaurants are represented by Ryan M. Holz, Douglas R. Sargent, David F. Standa and Irina Dashevsky of Locke Lord LLP.

Counsel information for the governor cannot be immediately determined.

The case is Shakou LLC et al v. Pritzker et al., case number 2020CH06526, in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

--Editing by Jay Jackson Jr.

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