SALEM — A day after going back to federal court over a provision in a small business COVID-19 relief program that barred any firm with pending litigation against the state from obtaining aid, the owners of Salem’s Bit Bar got a letter.
“Boston Bit Bar Labs Inc.’s application will in no way be prejudiced by or treated differently as a result of the recently-filed lawsuit against MGCC or any previously filed suits against the Commonwealth or its officers,” wrote Neil Martin, the chief operating officer of the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation.
“The MGCC caved in,” lawyer Marc Randazza said in a message.
Randazza, a First Amendment attorney who is representing the Salem restaurant and arcade, first filed suit on behalf of the business last month, after arcades were abruptly moved into the category of businesses not allowed to re-open until “phase four” of Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan.
A week after that suit was filed, the governor moved arcades back to “phase three,” allowing Bit Bar to re-open. But Randazza is still pursuing his federal lawsuit in that matter.
Then, after learning that one of the requirements for small businesses seeking COVID-19 aid from the quasi-public Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation was that they not be engaged in any litigation with the state or municipality where they do business, Randazza filed a new complaint on Tuesday, saying that is a violation of Bit Bar’s right to redress of grievances.
Hours after the agency was served with that complaint, his client got the email, said Randazza.
“We are of course pleased that yet again, the Commonwealth has decided to follow the Constitution after being served with a federal lawsuit,” Randazza said in a message Thursday. “Perhaps in the future, this state can just respect the Constitution without being sued.”
Randazza said he’s not done challenging the program, pointing to another restriction that bars licensed firearms dealers from applying for aid. “We intend to file a lawsuit against MGCC shortly over its unconstitutional restriction on Second Amendment rights too, unless they decided to remove that unconstitutional condition without the need for litigation,” he said.
Efforts to speak to an official at the agency were unsuccessful on Tuesday and Thursday.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.