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Second lawsuit filed by bars against Abbott

This one was expected.

Several Texas bar owners filed a $10 million federal lawsuit Tuesday afternoon against Gov. Greg Abbott, in an attempt to void his executive order shutting down bars for a second time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

All of the plaintiffs are members of the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance. This is the second lawsuit filed against Abbott this week after more than 30 Texas bars filed a lawsuit in Travis County over his recent shutdown order on Monday.

In addition to the damages, the lawsuit asks the court to stop Abbott from enforcing his executive order which closes bars and to prevent him from issuing similar orders in the future without proper notice. The suit said Abbott should give businesses more than 24 hours notice before shutting them down, “unless in the case of imminent threat of harm.” The lawsuit also asks that future shutdown orders have a clear end date and lay out conditions that would have to be met for the order be extended.

[…]

The lawsuit noted that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission recently posted a notice on its website saying it observed a “high level of compliance” by permit holders. The lawsuit claims that Abbott is abusing his emergency powers “without proper legal notice.”

“With the erratic legal situation fueled (if not created) by the Governor and given that Plaintiffs have largely complied with the spirit & letter of the Governor’s voluntary guidelines, it came as an unfortunate surprise,” the lawsuit states.

The bar owners say in the suit that Abbott’s order violates their constitutional rights for due process, equal protection, and their patrons right to assembly, and “may very well leave long-term scarring on the republican form of government if left unchecked.”

“It wasn’t like he even reduced the bars and nightclubs to 25% — we’re closed to 100%,” said Michael Klein, one of the plaintiffs and Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance president, drawing a distinction between bars and other businesses which are allowed to operate at limited occupancies. “You better have some pretty good scientific evidence if you’re going to take one group of alcoholic beverage licenses over another, or one group of businesses.”

See here and here for the background. The Woodfill lawsuit was filed in state court and this one is in federal court, and someone who is much better versed in legal matters than I am will need to explain the reasons for that. I actually think these guys have some reasonable claims – sufficient notice, a deadline and criteria for the order, etc – though whether those claims are justiciable in federal court is a question I can’t answer. I figure both sets of plaintiffs are going to ask for an order suspending this action on Abbott’s part, and if so we’ll get some kind of rulings quickly. I have no idea what to expect, but can’t wait to see what happens.

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10 Comments

  1. David Fagan says:

    “Dan Patrick does not care if you live or die. You and everyone you know mean nothing to him.”

    “I actually think these guys have some reasonable claims”

    Now, where are you at on this? Should the governor shut down and attempt to protect lives, or should there be a lawsuit filed if he tries?

  2. mollusk says:

    @David Fagan – The issue isn’t so much the shutdown order as that it is aimed at only the bars, while allowing other group settings (bowling alleys, amusement parks, conventions, etc.) to remain open.

  3. Flypusher says:

    “The issue isn’t so much the shutdown order as that it is aimed at only the bars, while allowing other group settings (bowling alleys, amusement parks, conventions, etc.) to remain open.”

    Agree. If it’s too risky to have bars open, it’s also too risky to open indoor restaurant dining, movie theaters, etc. Outdoor activities like tubing down the river and amusement parks are potentially less risky, but keeping your distance from other people and not losing your mask sound rather difficult. So I opt out of all of them.

  4. brad says:

    Questioning Gov Abbott by asking “You better have some pretty good scientific evidence…”

    I can only imagine Abbott’s response: “Evidence, we don’t need no stinking evidence” [mimicking the bandits in Blazing Saddles]

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    Brad,

    Blazing Saddles is a racist movie that should be disappeared, never to be shown or mentioned again. The fact that it’s a comedic masterpiece, that it is NOT racist, and is a cherished cultural icon for people of our demographic does not enter into it. It must be banned, just like we rename streets and tear down statues. It is offensive. It doesn’t matter that liberals and conservatives both love the film. It has to go, and you are racist for even mentioning it.

    See how this works?

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    While we are at it, we probably need to ban History of the World, Part I, also. I’m sure that’s offensive to somebody.

  7. blank says:

    Agree with mollusk and Fly. I have a friend who is a partial owner of a brewpub that serves food. He said that they could have applied for either a restaurant license or a bar license but chose the bar license because it was faster. Now, the brewpub is shut down because of the license type, which has nothing to do with safety.

  8. brad says:

    Bill,

    You crack me up. A movie that makes fun of racists, being racist.

    Good one. Love it!

  9. Wolfgang says:

    Re: “restaurant license or bar license” (when existing establishment has a choice)

    Aren’t the margins much higher for alcohol, compared to on-site food? Isn’t the backhouse labor cost much higher for food prep than the frontline cost for pouring?

    Isn’t there more pent-up demand for boozing in congregate settings (and associated multi-person and dyadic P2P socializing) than pent-up demand for food consumption?

    Filing under: Spirit of the Liquor Laws, Licensed Corona Dispensaries

  10. Dj says:

    Blazing Saddles was written by Richard Pryor. I didn’t know he was a racist.