NYC Theaters Sue Cuomo In Bid To Reopen
Written by admin on October 27, 2020
Sources reported to 107.3 VIP, A coalition of eight off-Broadway and comedy theaters in New York City sued New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Friday in an effort to reopen, arguing that the state’s continued shutdown of small venue theaters “looks more arbitrary than ever” as other businesses and gatherings have been allowed to reopen and take place.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court by the Theater Center, along with Manhattan-based venues the Players Theater, Actors Temple Theater, SoHo Playhouse, the Gene Frankel Theater, the Triad, Broadway Comedy Club and New York Comedy Club, which have all been shut down since March.
The theaters argue that New York’s shut down orders are based on “speculative modeling” and have placed people under “house arrest” and “taken jobs away from millions of people, all without due process of law.”
Small theaters are those that have less than 199 seats, which the theaters argue is a low enough capacity to reopen safely with public health protocols in place.
The theaters point to New York City’s low infection rate and the variety of businesses that have been allowed to reopen, including casinos, malls, restaurants and gyms, along with social gatherings like weddings and live tapings of Saturday Night Live.
The theaters also argue that Cuomo is “selectively” enforcing shutdown orders by ordering businesses to remain closed while encouraging outdoor social justice protests, which evidence has shown were not major transmission events for Covid-19.
$1.3 billion. That’s the total economic output of the small venue theater industry, according to the lawsuit. The theaters say they have “been affected terribly” by the continued shutdown, which has resulted in millions of dollars in lost revenue for the industry and the layoffs of over 8,000 employees in NYC.
“We get sued virtually every day for virtually every action taken during this pandemic, and frankly I’ve lost track of all the frivolous suits filed against us,” Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, told the New York Times about the theater lawsuit. “We are moving heaven and earth to contain this virus and we know some people are unhappy, but New York continues to have one of the lowest infection rates in the nation, and better to be unhappy than sick or worse.”
The live theater industry has been among the most affected by the continued shutdown orders in New York and elsewhere across the country, leaving thousands of workers out of work and advocating for government relief as theaters remain closed for the foreseeable future. New York City’s larger theaters are likely to remain closed for at least another six months, as Broadway’s shutdown was recently extended through May 2021, though more flexible theater spaces that could allow for greater social distancing have been lobbying the New York government to reopen. The theater lawsuit is the latest in a string of lawsuits and opposition that the New York government has faced over their shutdown measures, which are more stringent than those of many other states’, including lawsuits from restaurants, gyms, the Catholic church and strip clubs, as well as complaints from the movie theater industry.
While New York theaters and similar gatherings are forced to remain closed, Saturday Night Live reportedly has live audiences at their tapings using a loophole in the shutdown order, which allows for audiences that consist solely of paid employees. The Times reports that Saturday Night Live attendees—who are members of the general public and not official NBC employees—have been paid $150 in order to comply with the state guidelines.