Little Neck restaurant sues mayor and governor over indoor dining shutdown

Photo by Dean Moses


A Little Neck restaurant has sued Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the attorney general’s office over the continuation of the shutdown on indoor dining in New York City.

As restaurants across the state have gotten permission to allow diners indoors, the owners of Il Bacco Ristorante, located at 25324 Northern Blvd., filed a $2 billion class action lawsuit against the city and state’s leadership, claiming the shut down in New York City has led to “irreparable harm” for the restaurant and the industry as a whole. Over 350 other restaurants in New York City have signed on to the lawsuit, filed in court on Monday, Aug. 28.

Il Bacco is located one block from the Nassau County border, where restaurants are free to serve customers indoors at 50 percent capacity.

“If a restaurant patron travels five hundred feet east or one city block east from [Il Bacco], patrons are in Nassau County and can enjoy indoor dining in an air conditioned room,” the lawsuit reads. “According to Governor Cuomo, it is dangerous to eat a [Il Bacco] in Little Neck, Queens, but it is safe to dine indoors a few hundred feet east.”

Supporters of the lawsuit gathered in front of the restaurant on Thursday, Sept. 3, to further call on the mayor and governor to make indoor dining an option for eateries in the city. Speakers, most of whom were Republican lawmakers from Queens, made reference to the idea that the restaurant shutdown was evidence of a larger issue with city leadership — one that they claim has also allowed violence and economic despair to take hold in the five boroughs.

“As we all know, it’s already too hard to run a business in New York City, even before the pandemic,” said Joann Ariola, the Republican nominee for Queens borough president. “But now, thanks to Bill de Blasio, it’s impossible.”

In addition to the financial harm the lawsuit claims has been caused by the mayor’s and governor’s decision, the lawsuit maintains that the executives have “unilaterally suspended civil liberties” and deprived the restaurant owners of their “property interests without due process.”

Tina Oppedisano, the manager of Il Bacco who’s father opened the restaurant 28 years ago, said that her father is “truly the epitome of the American Dream.”

“What is happening to this country and the city of New York in the past six months is destroying that very same American Dream that this country was built on. The same dream that I was built on,” Oppedisano said.

James Mermigis, Il Bacco’s lawyer, said they are filing an injunction on Monday to have an emergency hearing.

“We are doing this the right way,” said Mermigis. “I have doctors, risk-assessors that are going to be supplying affidavits to show that eating in Manhattan is no more dangerous than eating in Albany, Rochester or Buffalo.”

Queens Councilmen Robert Holden and Eric Ulrich voiced their support of the lawsuit at the event.

Holden said Mayor Bill de Blasio “has been asleep at the wheel, during COVID, before COVID and after COVID.” Holden added that the City Council will fight to bring back indoor dining, “not at a third … at half if not full” capacity.

Photo by Dean Moses

Bronx Councilman Mark Gjonaj, Chair of the Committee on Small Business, said he supports Il Bacco’s lawsuit and will personally donate $2,500 to help fund it.

“We have businesses that have their doors open. The virus doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t know the difference of geography or industry,” said Gjonaj. “New York City must fairly be opened and safely opened for all.”

Photo by Dean Moses

Earlier this week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that indoor dining at a reduced capacity would again be allowed in the Garden State. While Cuomo acknowledged that he wasn’t ready to allow restaurants in New York City to again open their dining rooms, he said that he’d be watching New Jersey with “interest.”

The elected officials calling for the reopening of indoor dining join a chorus of restaurant and bar owners who made similar pleas this week.

Les Barnes, owner of London Lennie’s in Woodhaven, was at Il Bacco Thursday and said bar and restaurant owners have to stand up for their businesses and their workers.

“We need De Blasio and Cuomo to wake up and say, ‘Listen, let’s get the restaurants open,’” he said. “And we’re not waiting till the end of September, we need it now.”

On Wednesday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said New York City is ready to allow indoor dining at limited capacity.

“It’s time to allow indoor dining in New York City with reduced capacity and clear guidance to ensure social distancing and safety,” Johnson said “The rest of the State has been allowed to reopen their restaurants for indoor dining, and New Jersey is allowing indoor dining come Friday. Now is the time to allow it in New York City. Our restaurants and our City’s economy can’t wait.”

On Thursday, Cuomo announced that New York City malls would be allowed to open at 50 percent capacity on Sept. 9, though the food courts and restaurants within them will be required to remain closed.