Federal Judge Won’t Block Louisiana Bar Closures

Virus Outbreak New Orleans
This Friday, June 12, 2020 photo, shows Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Kevin McGill)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge in New Orleans refused Monday to block a state order closing bars to stop the spread of COVID-19, handing a defeat to 10 southeast Louisiana bar owners who had sued to stop the closure.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman said the closure order was legal under the broad powers a governor has under emergencies such as a pandemic.

Feldman ruled even as Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, who issued the order last month, planned to testify in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays in Lafayette. That’s where 11 bar owners were fighting the closure order in the federal court’s Western Distict of Louisiana.

Feldman heard arguments in the Eastern District on Friday.

The lawyer for bar owners in both cases is Jimmy Faircloth, who served as executive counsel in the administration of Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal. In both cases the bar owners contend that the bars were closed without constitutional due process or equal protection under law.

At the heart of the arguments has been whether statistics support the closures of on-site consumption at bars while restaurants that contain bars are not closed.

It was unclear when Summerhays would rule. Feldman said federal court precedent makes clear that “the bar owners cannot succeed on the merits of their claim that the Governor’s enforcement of the ban of on-site consumption of food or drinks at ‘bars’ violates their constitutional rights.”

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