Owner of Bluffton restaurant closed for violating mask mandate speaks out about lawsuit

Local News

BLUFFTON, Ind. (WANE) — The owner of a Bluffton barbecue restaurant is speaking out after filing a lawsuit against the local health department, the state, and the governor.

In a lawsuit filed in Wells Circuit Court on Tuesday, Yergy’s State Road BBQ alleges it was “aggrieved and adversely affected” when the Wells County Health Department shut down its South Main Street eatery on Aug. 28 for violating the governor’s mask mandate and capacity limits. The department of health, the State of Indiana, and Governor Eric Holcomb were all named in the lawsuit.

“What we are seeing right now is corruption on the highest level in the state and that’s the governor,” said Yergy’s owner Matt Yergler. “Our response back to him is that as much research as you do to save people’s lives you are not doing the research to save people’s livelihoods.”

WANE 15 spoke exclusively with owner Matt Yergler Thursday night.

Yergy’s State Road barbecue was closed by the Wells County Health Department in August for violating the governor’s mask mandate. Employees and customers were given the option of wearing or not wearing masks inside the restaurant.

The owner has been fighting the closure – including making an appeal last month. His lawsuit asks the Wells Circuit Court to vacate the health department’s order and to find the governor’s executive orders invalid.

Yergy’s said the closure put it in “dire financial straits” and on the brink of bankruptcy, and deprived Wells County residents “of one of the best dining experiences in all of Indiana.”

Yergy’s requested a judicial review of the health department’s order, which it called “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law.”

“There is no rational basis for requiring Yergy’s health employees to wear a face covering when working for Yergy,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit also asked for declaratory and injunctive relief because it alleges Holcomb lacked the authority to impose restrictions on Yergy’s.

The lawsuit asks the court to vacate the health department’s order, and find Holcomb’s executive orders enforced by the health department “invalid.”

The Wells County Health Department has said that if the restaurant would agree to wear masks they could reopen. WANE 15 asked why the establishment is choosing not to mask up.

“If we put on the mask we could open,” Yergler said. “Alright? But at some point, you have to stand on our principles and our convictions, and we got to fight and we got to push back against tyranny.”

Yergler went on to say that he is not against people who wear masks. He says that it is a person’s right to choose whether to wear or not wear a mask.

“We do our homework before we create executive orders,” Governor Holcomb said in a statement. “I’m confident in my authority to set in place requirements that save Hoosier lives.”

“If there are restaurant owners out there, if there are small business people across the state, if you are being affected not by the virus but by the tyrannical government come join our fight,” Yergler said. “It’s not too late. We’d be happy to have you.”

Yergler says that if the lawsuit does not go his way he will continue to fight. He asks that if you agree with the cause you can help by donating money to the fight.

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