(The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute)
City bar owners join challege to closures
A Morgan City pool hall and sports bar is one of 11 plaintiffs who asked for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction Thursday against Gov. John Bel Edwards and State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning to stay the governor’s mandate limiting bars to to-go or delivery service.
The move filed in the U.S. District Court’s Western District of Louisiana comes a day after the group, which includes Pool Do’s Sports Bar in Morgan City, filed suit against Edwards and Browning in the same court in response to the governor’s mandate.
Pool Do’s Sports Bar, which is owned by Jason Romero and Jules Roussell, joined other Acadiana area bars that charge in the suit that Edwards “has not and cannot demonstrate a ‘real or substantial relation’” between their bars’ closure and the current health crisis.
Romero said he is not seeking money unless he can’t reopen his business.
“If they would open, then ‘hey, it is what it is, let me open and then we’re done,’” Romero said.
If he couldn’t reopen via a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, Romero said he would seek restitution for expenses and lost wages.
“I’m not trying to get any more than what we were making,” he said.
Romero noted that the “small part” is the bills at the bar. There’s also the bills his profit pays for outside the bar.
Other bars in the suit, represented by Faircloth Melton Sobel & Bash of Alexandria, are New Iberia-based bars Quarter Tavern, Bubba’s Saloon, Twisted Tavern, Emerald Billiards, Cantina’s Downtown and Napoleons on the Teche as well as Lafayette-based bars 501 and My Place Bar & Grill and Youngsville-based bars SoCo Sports Bar and Dewey’s Lounge.
“This matter involves claims by business owners whose livelihoods are being destroyed by the exercise of executive authority unlawfully targeting a single sector of the business community without a basis in law or a rational basis in fact," the suit says.
Specifically, the bar owners cited in the suit Louisiana Department of Health figures that 454 cases of COVID-19 were traced to bars in Louisiana and a minimum of 100 were tied to Tigerland in Baton Rouge.
That means, the suit says, that 354 cases or 0.35% of the 100,000 cases have been traced to all other bars across the state.
The suit says state figures are saying that nearly a half of 1% of cases can be traced to a bar.
“That’s not saying that’s even where they got it from,” Romero said of those infected with COVID.
The bar owners said in the suit that as far as they know, no transmissions have been traced to their bars.
The bar owners said Edwards’ executive order lacks scientific or other proof that shuttering bars had a significant impact in reducing COVID-19 hospitalizations or deaths.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Faircloth of Faircloth Melton Sobel & Bash told the USA Today Network he filed a suit that is a mirror image for bar owners in the New Orleans and Houma areas Thursday afternoon in federal court in New Orleans and will follow it up with a filing for a temporary restraining order Friday.
Chatter Box in Amelia is included in the lawsuit filed in New Orleans.
Additional reporting by USA Today Network.