Frisco Restaurant Files Lawsuit Claiming Coronavirus Shutdown Unconstitutional

A steakhouse in Frisco has filed what may be the state's first lawsuit claiming the coronavirus shutdown violates the Texas constitution.

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A lawsuit filed Friday in Collin County could have broad implications for businesses across Texas.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of EG Steak, a Brazilian steakhouse in Frisco, wants the state to pay for losses it suffered while it was forced to shutdown. 

Co-owner David Jeiel immigrated from Brazil, became a U.S. citizen and opened the family restaurant.

“As a matter of fact, we celebrated our seventh anniversary and then this all happened,” Jeiel said.

Since mid-March, his restaurant has relied on to-go orders.

“It doesn’t pay the water bill,” he said.

He also furloughed 40 people.

“Then the following day we have people show up and say, ‘I got nowhere to go so tell me what you need,'” Jeiel said as fought back tears.

Jeiel said reopening was like starting from scratch.

Now, he's suing the state, county and city, but not for ordering him to close.

“They can order the closing, but when they do that, the government is required to compensate,” said James Mosser, the attorney representing Jeiel.

Not paying, Mosser said, violates article one, section 17 of the Texas constitution which states: "No person's property shall be taken, damaged, or destroyed for or applied to public use without adequate compensation being made.”

“Every restaurant, every bar and every business that was told to close their doors and don't come to work for the last 2 1/2 months should be compensated for their losses,” Mosser said.

In March, Collin County Judge Chris Hill declared all businesses essential.

Dining rooms closed only after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott defined essential businesses.

Hill issued the following statement Wednesday.

“My heart breaks for every business, every employee, and every family that has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and the actions that have been taken in response to the disease. From the beginning of this threat, I recognized that families in our community would struggle to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables. I feared that the public response would ultimately be worse than the virus. That is why I declared, 'All businesses, jobs, and workers are essential,' and why I did not order Collin County businesses to close.”

Jeiel said he wasn't interested in pointing fingers, but said public fear and ongoing limitations have him fighting for survival and vowing to not go down without a fight.

“I'm not going to shy away from that. I'm not,” Jeiel said.

The lawsuit is seeking $2 million.

The city of Frisco issued the following statement.

“Frisco is – and always has been -- a business friendly community.  It’s unfortunate this unprecedented pandemic threatened the livelihoods of businesses everywhere – and many businesses were forced to close to protect the health, safety and welfare of citizens.  We’re encouraged businesses are beginning to open safely under the state’s ‘Open Texas’ plan. As to the lawsuit, we intend to be aggressive in our defense against claims we categorically deny.”

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