A group of 125 bar owners from Arizona have filed a new complaint against Gov. Doug Ducey, saying he is “arbitrarily and irrationally” keeping them shut down while allowing restaurant bars, hotel bars, casino bars, microbreweries and wineries to stay open.
The new filing comes after the Arizona State Supreme Court declined to hear their original case. In the new filing, the bar owners are seeking an unspecified amount of damages.
At issue for the bar owners is the type of license they hold. They say the governor has arbitrarily penalized business owners who hold a series 6 and 7 license while letting other establishments that also sell food and alcohol to operate.
Ilan Wurman, attorney for the bar owners, said “singling out” his clients is discrimination and “lazy at best.”
“At worst, doing so was a favor to governor Ducey's friends in the powerful restaurant industry,” he added.
Ducey’s office could not be reached for comment.
In an Aug. 10 press briefing, the governor’s office said the pause of certain businesses will continue “for the time being" until certain benchmarks are made.
“Since this pause, Arizona has seen a decline in its percent positivity, an increase in hospital capacity, and an improvement in other indicators,” the governor’s office said.
The state said bars will not be allowed to reopen until the positivity rate for coronavirus cases falls under 3% in the county they operate in. The state’s current positivity rate is 11.7%.
“Coronavirus positivity rates in Arizona have not dropped below 3% since the start of this public health emergency. They may not do so for years,” according to the lawsuit.
The bar owners also say in the suit that they pay “upwards of $100,000” for a license to sell alcohol off premise.
But the governor has allowed restaurants, who pay substantially less for their series 12 alcohol license, to temporarily sell alcoholic beverages for takeout. During the coronvirus pandemic, this perk has been widespread across the U.S. to help restaurants earn revenue.
In the suit, the bar owners maintain they are losing a competitive advantage that they pay for with their premium licenses.
As such, the governor must pay “damages for taking their valuable privileges and giving it to others,” the suit states.
“In July, many of these small-business owners could still afford to weather this out for a bit longer,” said Wurman. “But now, dozens are mere weeks away from closing their doors for good.”
Bar owners in Florida and Texas have also sued their governors over restrictions ordered to curb the spread of coronavirus.
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