Ohio Court: Health Departments Cannot Suspend Licenses Over Masks

July 23, 2020

Ashland County Restaurant is protected by Ohio Constitution’s limits on arbitrary administrative action

Ashland, OH – In the first attempt within Ohio to suspend a business license for an alleged mask violation, an Ohio Court of Common Pleas Thursday enjoined its county health department from suspending local restaurants’ food service operations licenses in response to restaurant employees not wearing masks.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law’s victory comes on behalf of Cattlemans Restaurant in Savannah, Ohio, whose business license was permanently suspended on July 15, 2020 when Ashland County Health Department agents observed a cook and dishwasher not wearing masks in Cattlemans’ kitchen.

The ruling by Judge Ronald Forsthoefel holds that Cattlemans Restaurant and its owner are “being denied their civil liberties, including the right to earn a living and operate a commercial enterprise, without due process of law.”

And as to the mask requirement as a basis for suspending business licenses, the Court explains “If the State’s Order recognizes exceptions to a blanket mask wearing rule and as such would not consider the lack of wearing a mask an immediate danger to the public health, then it begs the question as to whether the failure to wear a mask for any reason could ever constitute a basis for finding an immediate danger to the public health.”

Cattlemans Restaurant will reopen on Saturday July 25, 2020.

“We continue to view the State’s mask requirements, like all of the Orders of the Ohio Department of Health thus far, as unenforceable advice that may or may not be wise.  Accordingly, we will continue to protect Ohioans when overreaching state or local health departments attempt to enforce these requirements,” explained 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson.

Subsequent to the ruling, Ashland County Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Tunnell indicated to the Court that his office would no longer be representing its Board of Health in the matter, stating “The Prosecuting Attorney has thoroughly reviewed the matter and is of the opinion that the suspension was contrary to law and that there are no defenses which would not be frivolous.”

Read the Court’s Order Here.

Read the 1851 Center’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction Here.


The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is a nonprofit, nonpartisan legal center dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government abuse. The 1851 Center litigates constitutional issues related to property rights, regulation, taxation, and searches and seizures.