Orlando bars lose appeal following COVID-19 shutdown

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An appeals court has rejected arguments that bars should get money from the state and Orange County because they were forced to close or drastically reduce business at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19.

A panel of the 5th District Court of Appeals on Friday upheld an Orange County circuit judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit in which the law societies were seeking damages for what is called a “reverse condemnation”.

The appeals court said the state and Orange County orders to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19 “represented a valid exercise of police powers during an emergency.” He also pointed, in part, to legal precedent that rejected reverse condemnation arguments from companies that were barred from selling fireworks in 1998 due to wildfires.

“If the state can use its police power to temporarily ban the sale of fireworks to prevent wildfires during an exceptionally dry period in Florida, then of course the state can also use its powers to police in an effort to limit the spread of a highly infectious and deadly virus,” the 13-page decision, written by Judge James Edwards and joined by Judges Kerry Evander and John Harris. “As such, the impact of COVID orders does not constitute a compensable hold.”

Further, the appeals court said the orders “result in the temporary cessation and limitation of the activities of the appellants (the Bars), not a complete or permanent loss of the ability to do business.”

“If the Appellants’ allegations in their complaint are true, the economic impact of the COVID orders on their business has been material,” the decision states. “However, the impact of the orders amounted to a complete ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages for only 17 days, after which the appellants’ businesses were gradually allowed to return to limited sales and operations before being allowed to return to their pre-pandemic mode. in about six months.

Orlando Bar Group, LLC, which does business as The Basement bar, The Attic bar and The Treehouse bar, went to appeal court in May 2021 after the Orange County Circuit Judge , John Jordan, dismissed the case. The trial also initially included bars from other areas of the state.

The lawsuit stems from a series of state and local orders that began in March 2020, after the pandemic began spreading in Florida. At first, bars were not allowed to sell alcohol for on-site consumption, although a series of changes were made to restrictions over the following months. Governor Ron DeSantis rescinded the restrictions in September 2020.

In the suit in circuit court, the bar owners alleged the restrictions were arbitrary and amounted to an unconstitutional taking of property rights.

“The orders were arbitrarily and capriciously enforced against bars as a class of business that were not permitted to be open for business, and enforcement of the higher standards for the complainants’ class of business was not not rationally related to the goal of preventing infection. of COVID-19,” the lawsuit said.

Copyright 2022 Florida Health News

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