The ruling, by Judge Glenn Suddaby of Federal District Court for the Northern District of New York, would allow wedding venues to host parties of more than 50 people under the same rules that apply to restaurants. The rules now limit indoor service to half a restaurant’s typical capacity.
Because indoor dining has not yet been allowed in New York City, the ruling would not appear to apply to wedding venues there.
The decision, which was issued on Friday, came in response to a lawsuit filed by two couples who had booked weddings at the Arrowhead Golf Club in Akron, N.Y., about a half-hour’s drive northeast of Buffalo.
Lawyers for the state argued in legal filings that “the court should not second-guess the state’s response to a health crisis.”
But the plaintiffs argued in their complaint that their wedding parties should be allowed to proceed because the Arrowhead rooms that are used for receptions were large enough to legally seat well over 50 people when operating as restaurants.
Judge Suddaby agreed.
“The court can find no rational basis for this state’s difference in treatment between use of the venues in question for ordinary dining and use of those venues for weddings,” he wrote, noting that the plaintiffs and the Arrowhead’s owners had pledged to abide by social distancing, mask wearing and all other public-health rules adopted amid the pandemic.
Anthony Rupp, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he was “extraordinarily pleased” with the ruling.
Caitlin Girouard, the governor’s press secretary, described Judge Suddaby’s ruling as “irresponsible at best as it would allow for large, nonessential gatherings that endanger public health” and said the administration would “pursue all available legal remedies immediately.”
Reporting was contributed by Sarah Almukhtar, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Luke Broadwater, Nick Bruce, Troy Closson, Emily Cochrane, Lindsey Rogers Cook, Shaila Dewan, Caitlin Dickerson, John Eligon, Sheri Fink, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Robert Gebeloff, Matthew Haag, Danielle Ivory, Sarah Kliff, Andrew E. Kramer, Mark Landler, Apoorva Mandavilli, Patrick McGeehan, Sarah Mervosh, David Montgomery, Alan Rappeport, Emily Rhyne, Frances Robles, Erin Schaff, Ed Shanahan, Michael D. Shear, Mitch Smith, Kaly Soto, Eileen Sullivan, Lucy Tompkins, Julie Turkewitz, Noah Weiland, Will Wright, Katherine J. Wu, Jin Wu, Elaine Yu, Mihir Zaveri, Carl Zimmer and Karen Zraick.