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What's on Tap

Judge rules against bar owners' move to reopen

Posted June 26, 2020 3:03 p.m. EDT
Updated June 26, 2020 3:19 p.m. EDT

— A judge on Friday ruled in favor of Gov. Roy Cooper and against a coalition of bars that are suing for the right to reopen immediately. Bars have been among the few businesses that Cooper has prohibited from reopening as the coronavirus outbreak continues in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association filed a lawsuit earlier this month on behalf of 185 businesses, seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctions against Cooper's executive order 141, which has prevented bars from reopening due to the coronavirus. The order went into effect in March and was extended this week until at least July 17.

Presiding James L. Gale denied the bars' motion, writing, "While the Governor’s choices may be debatable, at this time, the Court finds no adequate basis to conclude that Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on any claim that the Governor’s strategy in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic was sufficiently irrational so as to be outside the realm of reasonableness within which the law allows the Governor to act."

On May 22, the state moved into thesecond phase of resuming business and social activities during the pandemic. The phase allowed restaurants, breweries and wineries to begin operating at half capacity. Bars, however, were ordered to remain closed..

“Despite our numerous requests, the governor’s office has offered no science or data showing that having a drink in a private bar is more dangerous than having a drink in a brewery bar, distillery bar, or even a restaurant bar,” association president and local bar owner Zack Medford said via press release.

In the lawsuit, the bar association challenged the claims of Cooper and NC Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen that bar patrons, as they consume alcohol, are less likely to follow guidance on social distancing.

North Carolina lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill that would allow bars to serve patrons in outdoor spaces at 50 percent of the capacity of their indoor area, with social distancing guidelines from the CDC and the state Department of Health and Human Services. Cooper will likely veto that bill as he has similar others, and the legislature adjourned early Friday without a plan to come back to override any veto.

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