The owners of over 20 Arkansas bars filed a lawsuit against the state, seeking to thwart COVID-19 restrictions. According to the lawsuit, the Arkansas Department of Health made an arbitrary decision when it commanded bars to close at 11 P.M. 

Bar owners sue over closing directive

The lawsuit seeks a directive by over a dozen Fayetteville bars, including such acclaimed spots as Maxine's Taproom, against the Health Department order approved by Governor Asa Hutchinson and implemented by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.

The businesses state they are being irremediably harmed by the order.

Nineteen bars on Dickson Street have joined forces to issue a lawsuit against the Arkansas Department of Health, the Governor's office, and the Alcohol and Beverage Control Commission to petition the imposed curfew, reported KNWA.

According to Aaron Schauer, the owner of Piano Bar, "I want to be able to make my own money that is why I am an entrepreneur and unfortunately, we have just not been able to do that over the past 10 months."

The lawsuit over the COVID-19 directive was filed against Dr. Jose Romero of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), Governor Hutchinson, and Director of Alcohol Beverage Control, Doralee Chandler.

On November 19, State Health Secretary Dr. Romero issued a regulation that bars had to close at 11 P.M. The executive order was signed by Governor Hutchinson. 

The lawsuit, filed this week in Pulaski County by lawyer Gary Barnett of Little Rock, cite that the directive "do not contain any factual, data driven or other basis for regulating the peak hours of the facilities," reported Fayetteville Flyer.

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Other evidence involved in the lawsuit includes a graph presented by the health department on November 18 displaying that of the active cases of COVID-19 in the state at the time, around 37 individuals said that they had visited a bar.

Bar owners remark that the curfew has cost them thousands of dollars and they have no hope of recovering. They added that allowing the directive to remain in place will cost them thousands more dollars.

The owner of Pinpoint on Block Avenue, Bo Counts, who joined the lawsuit, stated the curfew is the equivalent of demanding restaurants to close during lunch and dinner time.

The graph from the Arkansas Department of Health displays that "the lowest number of active cases by associated activity in Arkansas is Bars with the highest being Public School Districts," but that bars were the only business type covered by the directive, reported 4029 News.

Schauer said he is hoping that the ruling will be granted as soon as possible so they could remain open in their normal hours.

The plaintiffs also used the governor's words against him as he has been saying that business restrictions should be "data-driven." But he said multiple times (and data he has produced is used in the lawsuit) that there is no proof that bar and restaurant activity has contributed to the spike in novel coronavirus cases.

The business owners also feel that they are being targeted and singled out more than others.

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