Allegheny Co. restaurant squaring off with health department over COVID-19 rules in federal court

PITTSBURGH — The Crack’d Egg restaurant in Brentwood has been at odds with the Allegheny County Health Department for weeks over COVID-19 regulations and violations. The case is now headed to a federal courtroom.

“She’s ready to dig in and fight this to the end because just like our belief in her, she believes in her civil liberties and her right to exercise them,” said attorneys for the restaurant owner, Sy Lampl, James L. Cooney and co-council Dennis Blackwell. They said the Crack’d Egg deserves to be open.

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“Our position is that the government didn’t have the power to make all those regulations. They’re beyond his (Gov. Tom Wolf) power,” one of the attorneys said.

According to a complaint filed by the health department, the restaurant didn’t make employees wear masks, allowed customers in without them and didn’t sufficiently separate tables. The health department ordered the restaurant to close, but the attorneys say the rules weren’t implemented in accordance to the Constitution.

“A governor and his secretary could pass rules and regulations, but they have to follow a procedure. The rules and regulations have to be published in advance. They need the approval of the legislature. None of this happened,” they said.

Not long after the health department filed a lawsuit against the restaurant, the Crack’d Egg fired back with its own federal lawsuit against Allegheny County -- saying its constitutional rights were violated.

The lawsuit lists a number of alleged constitutional violations, including “depriving the restaurant owners' right to earn a living.”

The Crack’d Egg is not the only restaurant battling the health department. Seven in Downtown Pittsburgh and Savoy in the Strip District are in the same situation.

“Some of them just doesn’t make sense. They’re not based on science. The Secretary of Health seems to think that masks will prevent COVID-19. Medical opinion is not necessarily in agreement on that,” said one of the attorneys.

But according to an infectious disease doctor, the precautions do make sense.

“If you’re going back to full capacity and not doing any mitigation efforts, for example, face coverings, you are bound to get cases. You’re bound to get exposures and have a major disruption to your business,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja.

For the restaurants and the attorneys, however, it is all about infringing on their rights.

“Fight for your rights. Stand up for yourselves. These elected officials do not get to just bully people into positions,” the attorneys said.

Legal analyst Phil DiLucente told Channel 11 this most recent lawsuit filed by the restaurant has a chance to get all the way to the Pa. Supreme Court -- and even the U.S. Supreme Court -- because of the violations raised.