Late last month, Digital Music News was first to report that musicians had fired back against New York’s controversial ticketed event ban with a lawsuit. Now, a new filing has shed additional light upon the case’s arguments.
DMN began covering New York State’s ticketed event ban and prohibition of advertised live music soon after the State Liquor Authority (SLA) issued the corresponding guidance in a Q&A. The far-reaching requirements indicated that establishments could offer only “incidental music” – or that which is “not the draw itself” – to socially distanced audience members.
The stringent specifications also outlawed “advertised” gigs, and businesses that violate the regulations could see their liquor licenses suspended. (In total, over 200 New York liquor licenses have been suspended since the pandemic’s onset, and more than 1,080 violation-related charges have been imposed.)
Shortly thereafter, the SLA doubled down on the essential live-music ban, stating that ticketed performances “have been prohibited since New York went on PAUSE in mid-March.” Fans, artists, and business owners quickly began signing off on a petition opposing the SLA’s rules (which has garnered nearly 17,500 signatures to date).
Then, Michael Hund, a New York native and Buffalo Music Hall of Fame guitarist, levied a legal complaint, alleging in part that the SLA’s orders constitute a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
In pursuit of a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, and an expedited hearing, Hund’s newest filing elaborates upon the nature of the alleged constitutional violations.
Emphasizing that the SLA guidance “is preventing countless musicians…from engaging in their lawful business and providing for their families,” the firmly worded text takes aim at the MTV Video Music Awards, which occurred in New York City on August 30th.
Describing the function as “a prominently advertised event featuring live musical performances that were the specific and sole ‘draw itself,’” the document reiterates that the “rich and famous” attendees were exempted from New York’s 14-day out-of-state quarantine requirement because “the health concerns from the early days of the pandemic are nearly non-existent.”
Additionally, the plaintiff and his legal team note that those who violate the quarantine order (without an exemption) may face a fine of up to $10,000 or as many as 15 days behind bars.
From there, the filing claims that Governor Cuomo “notoriously condoned and promoted mass protests” despite the risk of COVID-19 transmission and argues that the pandemic “no longer warrants the immense amount of unchecked power” assumed by state government agencies, including utilizing the power “arbitrarily, selectively, and hypocritically” against businesses.
In support of the latter point, the text cites the state’s relatively small number of new novel coronavirus cases.
Lastly, the document targets the technical nuances of the live music ticketing ban, relaying that it “is the epitome of arbitrary; it is the definition of nonsensical.” And besides allegedly violating the plaintiff’s right to free expression and his fans’ right to enjoy live music, it’s maintained that the regulations could contribute to COVID-19’s spread by making it harder for establishments to track the number of attendees (via sold tickets).
Plus, “forcing fans to eat and drink…actually increases the potential for exposure to the coronavirus by way of exposure to food and beverages handled by venue staff,” per the plaintiff.
Parlatore Law Group attorney Peter Jay Speroni addressed his client’s case in a statement, which was shared with Digital Music News.
After highlighting the suit’s high-stakes nature and specifying the anticipated legal maneuvers of the defendants, Speroni said: “We are confident that the government does not possess the power to arbitrarily keep musicians and venues from advertising and hosting ticketed live music events under the pretext of Covid-19.”
More as this develops.