A federal judge declined Monday to let North Carolina strip clubs re-open in defiance of an executive order, saying she wouldn't second guess state officials' thinking on this particular COVID-19 control.
The clubs sued May 26 and hoped the judge would issue a preliminary injunction forbidding Gov. Roy Cooper's administration from enforcing the executive order that closed them down. A number of businesses have filed similar lawsuits over these orders, including gyms and bars.
In Talleywhacker v. Cooper, club owners made several constitutional arguments and keyed on the fact that restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries have been allowed to re-open, albeit with capacity restrictions, and that they should be treated much the same way.
U.S. District Court Judge Louise Flanagan acknowledged similarities between these businesses and adult entertainment clubs, but she said the Cooper administration's "dimmer switch" approach to reopening some businesses but not others is "reasonable and rational, where uncertainties about COVID-19 still loom."
"While plaintiffs effectively point out similarities between their businesses and those allowed to reopen, 'a state does not violate the Equal Protection Clause merely because the classifications made by its laws are imperfect,'" the judge wrote, citing past legal precedent.
The underlying lawsuit remains active, but the court loss means these clubs won't be able to legally re-open while it proceeds.