A live music venue in New York state that challenged Governor Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 restrictions on live entertainment has won an initial court ruling.

Justice Frank Sedita of the New York State Supreme Court ruled that a ban on ticketing and advertising live events at venues in the state is unconstitutional.

Sportsmen’s Tavern in Buffalo, which is a bar and live music venue, filed its lawsuit against the restrictions in August, though it is unclear at present whether the ruling is applicable to other venues across the state.

The State Liquor Authority, which controls the policies governing such venues, issued a statement in response to the ruling: “We are considering all options, including filing for an immediate stay and appeal. Remember: we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, and with the threat of clusters around the state and cases surging across the country, preventing mass gatherings remains one of the best public health tools in our toolbox.”

The SLA’s rules made it illegal to advertise live entertainment at venues and made the sale of tickets for such entertainment unlawful. State officials have said the rules are meant to limit crowds and prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Critics argue that the banning of advertisement constitutes an illegal abridgement of free speech, adding that such a ban on performance and compensation via ticketing of events is damaging to live entertainment venues and performers within the state.

There are other lawsuits against the rules, including one filed August 25 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, which states that the live music restriction “is not just unworkable, it is unconstitutional.” However, a federal judge last week threw out a request to overturn the state rules on constitutional grounds.

Mass gatherings including sporting events and live music, have largely been without audiences since March, from professional sports franchises like the New York Yankees Major League Baseball franchise and the NFL’s Buffalo Bills down through to small clubs.

New York state has suffered 32,768 deaths related to COVID-19 since March as well as 465,000 cases. The state has reported 3,803 new cases in the last seven days, with an additional 3,207 cases in New York City.

Image: jensth / Unsplash / Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication / Edited for size