A hearing on the matter of the Minnesota Department of Health seeking an injunction and declaration against the Bullseye Saloon took place on Tuesday.
There will be a trial regarding the "declaration." The declaration would be a finding on the legality of the Department of Health’s asserting administrative authority in situations such as that presented by “Theatre Night.” To decide on this question of legality the judge, Jerome B. Abrams of the Scott County District, stated that a trial with testimony will be required. The prosecution and defense teams have been asked to expedite preparations for trial. A trial date will be announced in coming weeks. Abrams will rule on the "injunction" within about ten days. The injunction would in this case be an order to cease staging "Theatre Night" at the Bullseye while awaiting judgement on the larger issue.
The judge’s ruling on the injunction will not necessarily reflect an ultimate judgement on the legality of the Health Department’s stance: Abrams could issue the injunction temporarily but ultimately find in the Bullseye’s favor, or decline to issue the injunction, yet still find for the MDH at the trial. Regarding the injunction particularly the defense argument for freedom of expression should weigh heavily. At trial the language of the law as written by the state Legislature will suffer close scrutiny. The Bullseye is owned by Robert Ripley. He is represented by administrative law specialist Patrick O’Neill with assistance from Mark Benjamin, the criminal law attorney, and originator of the “Theatre Night” movement.
Mark Benjamin will be issuing comment in coming days. We link at bottom of this page to a report from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Although that newspaper is notoriously Healthist in outlook this story adheres to dry fact. Robert Ripley sent us these comments Tuesday afternoon:
Just finished with court … no decision rendered yet. The judge indicated that he would try to make some sort of ruling in 7-10 days from today. The hearing went pretty well. The judge liked our 1st amendment freedom of expression argument, but it’s too early to tell how he’ll rule.
Some comments I would like to make in regard to this case that I hope the judge will consider: applying the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) checklist (the checklist they used when inspecting Bullseye in March) is subjective, arbitrary, and just plain “made up.” If this checklist is the litmus test by which theatrical performances are to be judged in Minnesota, then such wildly popular shows as Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding would not qualify as a theatre performance either!
Another point: if the MDH is truly concerned about all Minnesotans’ health, then why would they not seek an injunction against the Guthrie Theatre here in Minneapolis? Isn’t the health of those performers, and of other employees, and of patrons of that theatre supposed to be equally protected as for those at Bullseye?
The judge pointed out that bartenders do not have the right to “waive” on the issue of second hand smoke, and I ask: Guthrie Theatre employees do? How can the MDH justify overprotecting the lowly bartender, while underprotecting the theatre employee: sounds like the MDH is guilty of discrimination and in violation of the equal protection clause written in our state constitution.
I guess we’ll see if the judge agrees with me.
Great and sincere thanks to everyone reading this who has offered support.
– Robert Ripley
To donate to Robert Ripley’s defense fund make out your check to the Tavern League of Minnesota with the notation (memo) "Legal Defense Fund." Send to:
Tavern League of Minnesota
Attn: Kenn Rockler
235 East Roselawn, Suite 17
Maplewood, MN 55117
You can also donate using credit cards by visiting: http://www.freedomfight08.com/