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Four restaurant owners sue Mills to reopen

Jun 08, 2020

Alfred — In a lawsuit against Gov. Janet Mills, four rural restaurant owners — three in Cumberland County and one in York County — are seeking a temporary restraining order to allow them to reopen while the parties argue the legality of Gov. Mills’ "discriminatory" restrictions.

Lipman & Katz attorneys Steve Smith and Jack Baldacci announced today that they have filed the lawsuit in Maine Superior Court in York County on behalf of Terri Perreault, owner of Morning Glory Diner in Bridgton; Michelle and Joel Hapgood, owners of Campfire Grille in Bridgton; and Gary and Chris Searles, owners of The Olde Mill Tavern in Harrison, all in Cumberland County; and Bill Palladino, owner of The Shed Restaurant and Willy’s Ale Room in Acton, York County.

In a press release June 8, the attorneys said "Mainers are protected under the 'Equal Protection Clause' of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides that no state can 'deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.'"

They said Gov. Mills’ “Restarting Plan” deprives the plaintiffs of their ability to operate their businesses for dine-in services "because they are located in one of the three counties Mills has effectively closed: Cumberland, York, and Androscoggin."

Mills’ plan "thereby deprives the plaintiffs of their fundamental liberty rights, property rights, and assembly rights," the attorneys said.

The three Cumberland County plaintiffs own restaurants in rural towns near the border of Oxford County, where their closest competitors, all less than 14 miles away, are able to fully open their restaurants, "further demonstrating the nonsensical nature of Mills’ plan," the attorneys said.

Lead Attorney Steve Smith said, “These Mainers were told by Gov. Mills that they could open their restaurants June 1st. Our clients purchased food to fill their coolers, only to be told, at the eleventh hour, that Gov. Mills had changed her mind. At this point, our clients are no longer being governed, they are being ruled.”

Because Gov. Mills’ Restarting Plan infringes on the plaintiffs’ "Fundamental Rights, the Court should apply the “Strict Scrutiny” Test, which is the most-difficult test to meet for the government," he said.

"The government must demonstrate that the law was made for 'a compelling reason,' and that the law was the 'least restrictive' method to achieve that compelling goal.

“It is doubtful that less than 100 deaths in Maine is a compelling reason for the Governor to act without authority by amending the Restarting Plan to negatively impact our clients in certain counties,” Smith said. “And now that Gov. Mills has released virus-related information by zip code, it is clear that Gov. Mills’ Restarting Plan to blanketly close all dine-in restaurants within these three counties, and not by town or zip code, is not the least-restrictive method available.”

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