U.S. District Court Upholds Louisiana Bar Closures

Customers line up outside Krystal on Bourbon Street. Photo by Jenn Bentley

Today, Judge Martin L.C. Feldman ruled in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to uphold Gov. John Bel Edwards’ restrictions on bars. Edwards re-closed bars across the state in July in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19.

“I am pleased that Judge Feldman upheld bar restrictions, which is one of the critical mitigation measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana to protect and save lives,” Edwards said in a statement. “The evidence is clear that mask mandates and closing on-site consumption at bars work, and more than a month after implementing both measures in Louisiana the data shows they are working.”

Gov. Edwards testified in defense of the restrictions today in a separate, similar lawsuit in Lafayette, LA. A ruling, in that case, has not been issued.

“My orders are consistent with my authority and also with recommendations of public health experts and President Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, which puts Louisiana in the ‘red zone’ for new cases and ‘yellow zone’ for testing positivity rates and recommends bar closures as part of the strategy to slow the spread of the illness.”

Many bar owners across the state were frustrated with the re-closure of bars while restaurants serving alcohol were allowed to remain open. According to attorney Jimmy Faircloth, bar owners were denied their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection when Edwards closed bars without also closing restaurants that contained bars.

“I know these orders are hard on business owners, and I did not undertake them lightly,” Edwards said. “However, they offer the best shot for us to be able to open as much of our economy as possible while still keeping the ability to provide life-saving health care in our hospitals.”

The Louisiana Department of Health reported 735 new cases of Covid-19 since August 16, 2020, with the total number of cases in the state now at 138,485. Nearly all (85 percent) of new cases were due to community spread, with 28 percent of the occurring in people age 29 and under.

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