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Jerk King's lawsuit against Rochester, DMC returns to local court

Both sides agreed to have federal claims dismissed, but allegations of business interference remain at state level.

Jerk King 2
Jerk King, a closed restaurant in Rochester's Peace Plaza, has filed a lawsuit against the city and Destination Medical Center Corp.
Randy Petersen/Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — A restaurant’s lawsuit against the city of Rochester and Destination Medical Center Corp. has returned to the local courts.

The Toronto-based Jerk King restaurant filed the case locally in November, alleging city and DMC work in Peace Plaza intentionally interfered with the its ability to operate, but claims of constitutional violations sent the case to federal court.

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The lawsuit, filed by Rochester attorney William French on behalf of Jerk King Inc., claimed the city and state’s DMC Corp. board violated the Fifth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution after work on Peace Plaza hindered the Jerk King’s ability to operate.

The restaurant opened at the end of 2019, months before restaurants were closed for in-person dining amid the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. During the same time, the city started work on renovating Peace Plaza, which was largely funded through state DMC funds.

The lawsuit alleges work on Peace Plaza resulted in placing fences and other barriers on sidewalks, blocking the restaurant's door when it would have been allowed to reopen and failing to offer mitigation for the actions.

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The business claims the city and DMC. Corp. appeared “intent on driving it, and other small businesses, from the central core of the City of Rochester.”

In late December, both sides agreed the allegations under federal code could be dismissed, allowing the case to shift back to the local district court.

Jerk King’s claims of business interference under state statute remain in place, but attorneys representing the city and DMC are seeking to have those dismissed.

The response from the city says the alleged actions were carried out by independent contractors and not directly ordered by city or DMC officials.

Additionally, the response filed earlier this month says claims that the city violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act are in error, since the suit was filed on behalf of the business, rather than the owner, Johnson Osei.

“The plaintiff lacks standing to pursue its claim under the MHRA because as a corporation, it lacks a racial identity,” Stephanie Angolkar of Bloomington-based Iverson Reuvers law firm wrote on behalf of the city and DMC Corp.

Jerk King is seeking at least $100,000 in damages, along with the potential for unspecified additional relief.

A hearing with District Court Judge Kathy Wallace related to the city’s request to dismiss the case is scheduled for Feb. 25.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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