Sep 11, 2020 5:10 PM

Lincoln bowling alley owner sues city over virus mandates

Posted Sep 11, 2020 5:10 PM

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The owner of a Lincoln bowling alley who has been at loggerheads with city officials for weeks over orders intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus is suing to stop the mandates from being enforced.

Benjamin Madsen, general manager of Madsen's Bowling & Billiards, filed the lawsuit Thursday against the city and its mayor, police chief and health director, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. The lawsuit alleges they have no legal authority to issue civil penalties or shut down businesses that don't follow the mandates. The bowling alley has also filed a $10 million claim against the city making the same allegations.

City officials and Madsen have been in a tug-of-war over the mandates. Police have issued citations against the bowling alley and the city briefly shut it down last month for violating coronavirus-related restrictions. City officials said the business wasn't requiring employees or patrons to wear masks or enforcing social distancing requirements.

Madsen's attorney, Christopher Ferdico, said city employees have been engaged in a policy of harassment "designed to stifle and discourage legitimate public debate," while attempting to delegate police powers to businesses and to punish businesses for failing to enforce the mandate. The lawsuit seeks to suspend all enforcement of the city's mandates, find them unlawful and award damages for lost profits.

Also Thursday, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced plans to end nearly all of his state's social-distancing restrictions next week, even as the number of new coronavirus cases trended upward.

On Friday, the state's online virus tracker showed 37,373 confirmed cases and 430 deaths in Nebraska since the start of the outbreak.

Over the past seven days, the state averaged more than 274 new confirmed cases a day, compared with a seven-day average of 241 the week prior, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracking project. The state averaged more than three COVID-19 deaths per day in the last seven days, compared with just over two deaths per day for the seven days prior.