Earlier this month, Digital Music News was first to report that the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) had instituted a controversial ticketed event ban, prohibiting restaurants, clubs, and venues from selling tickets to concerts or promoting live music. Now, an outraged musician has fired back with a lawsuit.
Michael Hund, a New York native and Buffalo Music Hall of Fame guitarist, just submitted the complaint to a federal court. An exclusive copy of the filing was shared with DMN this morning.
Naming Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Liquor Authority Chairman Vincent Bradley as defendants, the 17-page-long document quickly takes aim at the ticketed event ban, which the governor and chairman allegedly implemented “without authority or justification,” thereby depriving the plaintiffs and other musicians “of their personal and professional property without just compensation.”
The lawsuit specifies that Hund had been scheduled to play over ten shows until “the overstep of government authority” prevented him from doing so. Arguing that Governor Cuomo’s far-reaching lockdown measures represent “an unprecedented abuse of his emergency powers,” the document reiterates that public businesses had been adhering to social-distancing requirements before the ticketed event ban. “The additional guidelines do not add to this mission,” the plaintiff and his legal team state, “but rather only have a discriminatory effect on musicians, music venues and their livelihoods in the state of New York.”
The detailed complaint proceeds to note the State of New York’s downward trend in new COVID-19 cases and deaths, arguing in turn that the underlying goal of lockdown measures (to prevent the healthcare system from becoming overburdened) has been achieved. Plus, the firmly worded legal action emphasizes the stance that the governor has “selectively enforced” lockdown measures – including by failing to disperse non-socially distanced protests and by granting “political and personal favors to celebrities,” with yesterday’s MTV Video Music Awards cited as an example.
“The Defendants’ prohibition of ‘advertised and/or ticketed shows’ is unconstitutional under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and does not serve the public health in any conceivable way,” the lawsuit continues.
Lastly, towards its close, the text targets the “arbitrary and capricious rules” associated with the ticketed event ban. Arguing that the customer’s purpose for patronizing a socially distanced area (to eat a meal or enjoy live music, for instance) doesn’t affect the risk of spreading COVID-19, the plaintiff relays: “Once a customer is inside the establishment it makes no impact on safety as to why they are there.”
Addressing the lawsuit in an official statement, Peter J. Speroni, attorney for the plaintiff, indicated that he and his team “will vigorously advocate for the musicians across New York State that have been unfairly discriminated against under Governor Cuomo and the State Liquor Authority’s arbitrary rules and executive orders.
“It is now vital, more than ever, to allow musicians and venues in New York State to charge for ticketed events, and to advertise upcoming shows to preserve our music industry,” Speroni also wrote.
At the time of this writing, neither Governor Cuomo nor Chairman Bradley had publicly responded to the suit. Separately, a member of the New York State Senate has penned a letter to the SLA concerning the “exorbitant” fines that it’s levied “against small businesses.”
More as this develops.