NO SURPRISE: Bar Owners Lost COVID Shutdown Lawsuit In Janice Clark’s Court

We didn’t really cover the proceedings over the past two days in the case of Molaison v. Edwards, which was the lawsuit filed by four Jefferson Parish residents, including the owners of two bars, over Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statewide mask mandate and bar closure order.

As soon as we saw who the judge was catching the case in Baton Rouge’s 19th Judicial District Court, the outcome was predetermined. Janice Clark is a partisan Democrat who couldn’t give a damn about statute, much less the Constitution, and those bar owners never had a chance.

A Louisiana judge has upheld Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statewide mask mandate and bar restrictions as legal and enforceable.

Judge Janice Clark on Thursday rejected claims from Jefferson Parish business owners that the Democratic governor overstepped his legal authority in enacting the coronavirus rules.

Clark delivered her ruling after a two-day hearing in which the plaintiffs argued Edwards’ regulations were illegal, unfair and an overreaction to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Edwards administration countered that the rules helped to slow the virus’ spread and protect public safety.

Clark handed down her decision as Louisiana’s health department announced the death toll from the COVID-19 disease has topped 4,000.

So was it a waste of time to file that suit? Nope.

The plaintiffs in Molaison v. Edwards served as the tip of the spear. Edwards’ administration has had to show its cards and we now know the argument the governor will present. There are multiple other cases coming, and those will be decided by judges other than Clark. Edwards’ arguments are now part of the transcript and public record, and so future plaintiffs will know how to beat them.

Not to mention this case might very well go to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is a far different organ than Janice Clark’s courtroom is.

Which is not to say this lawsuit, or even future lawsuits, will ultimately win in state court. It’s more likely that in federal court, where a case would ultimately end up with the federal Fifth Circuit, the mask mandate/bar closure could fall.

But something else, we’re told, came out of the case which could provide some relief for bar owners who are, as it stands right now, going to go out of business.

The acting commissioner of the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, Ernest Legier, testified at the trial. And from what Legier said in his testimony, bar owners merely need to serve food and they can’t be shut down.

In New York, a bar owner got past a similar fiat regulation in a creative way that Louisiana publicans perhaps should emulate…

When the State of New York issued a rule requiring restaurant patrons to order food if they want to buy alcohol, the owner of a Saratoga Springs pub added $1 Cuomo Chips to the menu.

They’re named after Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who announced the executive order as part of an effort to ensure social distancing at establishments that serve alcohol during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you’re not eating a meal and you’re just drinking and then it’s just an outdoor bar and people are mingling and not isolated at tables,” Cuomo said.

The rule went into effect Friday and also prohibits customers from walking up to a bar to order drinks.

Matthew Bagley, the owner of Harvey’s Restaurant and Bar, told CNN that he wasn’t making a political statement when he added Cuomo Chips to the menu.

Saratoga Springs says its the birthplace of the potato chip, so it was an obvious addition. And Bagley likes the alliteration.

“It started as, not so much a joke, but at least to make light of the situation that we had another unexpected hurdle that we had to go through,” Bagley said.

Maybe the workaround is John Bel Chips, or John Bel Cracklins. Get a bag of them for a quarter, and according to the ATC commissioner’s testimony, you’re good.

Until you aren’t, but then your next lawsuit is a hell of a lot stronger for having exposed the state government’s arbitrary, capricious and nonsensical assault on small business in Louisiana.

After all, those casinos are wide open. And the bars who have video poker machines, they’re not closed. That might not make a difference to Janice Clark, but some other judge might think a bit differently.



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