Judge slaps down bars' suit over COVID-19 closures

Judge slaps down bars' suit over COVID-19 closures

ST. LOUIS – Two of the bars forced to close after being found in violation of the city’s public health orders have sued – and lost.

St. Louis shut down four bars on July 28 after city officials visited more than a dozen such establishments and found some ignoring mandates for social distancing and the wearing of face masks, orders aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. In addition, a video surfaced showing Wheelhouse patrons, none wearing masks, crowding a dance floor.

Also ordered to closer were the Marquee Restaurant & Lounge at 1911 Locust St. and Big Daddy’s in Laclede’s Landing. Other bars and restaurants as well have been issued warning letters.

Wheelhouse and Start Bar, both downtown in the building at 1000 Spruce St., then sued the city of St. Louis, Mayor Lyda Krewson and Health Department Director Fred Echols. The bars said they had received a “cease and desist order” and the order to close on the same day, and argued in their lawsuit that the city’s move was “unlawful, arbitrary and capricious.” They sought a temporary restraining order to allow them to continue to operate.

But 22nd Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hogan said that in the circumstances, the city had the right and responsibility to act to protect the public’s health.

Hogan stated in her ruling: “The Court’s limited role of judicial review is not to assess the wisdom of the Orders, but to determine whether the Order violates the law. The Court finds that they do not violate the law because they have a real and substantial relation to the goal of stemming the tide of the public-health pandemic; further, 19CSR20-20.040(3) specifically authorizes to director to close any “other place” when the director finds that the closing is necessary to protect public health. As the closure relates to a pandemic, the process due prior to the closure is that the public is placed on notice that the law allows for such closures.”

 

 

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