Judge Struggles to Find Distinction That Would Keep N.C. Bars Closed | Beaufort County Now | A Superior Court judge asked repeatedly Thursday, Feb. 18, for evidence that would justify state government orders that keep private bars closed across North Carolina. | carolina journal, NC bars, private bars, closed bars, february 19, 2021

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Judge Struggles to Find Distinction That Would Keep N.C. Bars Closed

Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal. The author of this post is CJ Staff.

    A Superior Court judge asked repeatedly Thursday, Feb. 18, for evidence that would justify state government orders that keep private bars closed across North Carolina.

    The judge will decide soon whether to block the orders from Gov. Roy Cooper. A ruling against Cooper would free private bars to reopen under the same health and safety restrictions that apply to bars open now in restaurants, breweries, wineries, and other alcohol-serving businesses.

    "What is there inherently different about a bar than a restaurant that justifies the distinction?" Judge James Gale asked an attorney representing Cooper. "Don't keep telling me, 'Bars in general.' I'm asking you: Can you tell me — can you isolate something about bars specifically. ... I'm begging you — if you've got it — to give me the evidence."

    The question of treating private bars differently from other bars serves as the key point of a case called Waldron v. Cooper. Lawyers for Crystal Waldron, owner of Club 519 in Greenville, argue that Cooper's COVID-19 executive orders have singled out private bars for illegal and unconstitutional treatment.

    Club 519 and many other private bars have been closed completely since March. Other bars have reopened during the course of the past year as Cooper has tweaked his COVID-19 orders.

    "There's something different in the private bars, and it's the human behavioral effect," said Cooper's attorney, Special Deputy Attorney General Michael Wood. "That's what the governor's team is concerned by. The governor can't just assume compliance — 100% compliance. We know from seeing students dance in the streets after games: That just doesn't happen."

    But Waldron's attorney argued that Cooper's team has presented no evidence that a private bar operating under the same restrictions as other bars poses any greater COVID-19 risk.

    "There's no health or safety rationale underlying the disparate treatment between private bars and the rest of the bars that have been allowed to open," said Jessica Thompson of the Pacific Legal Foundation. "This is a purely arbitrary distinction."

    Most other states are taking a different approach to bar operations during the pandemic. "If the best public health data reflects that bars should be closed in North Carolina, there are 38 states and the District of Columbia that disagree with that evidence, or have found health and safety precautions that they can institute that make bars safe," Thompson said.

    The judge recognized the economic impact of Cooper's government-imposed COVID-19 shutdown on Waldron and other private bar owners. "I can certainly understand how you can take all those inconveniences that I had and add to it I don't know whether my business is going to survive, and my whole life and livelihood is no longer there," he said. "I understand. I really do."

    Gale outlined three potential rulings he could make. First, he could deny Waldron's request for a preliminary injunction against Cooper's orders. That option could allow the bar owner to seek a three-judge panel's opinion on other constitutional claims.

    Second, the judge could grant the injunction and make it effective immediately. Such a ruling would likely prompt an appeal from Cooper. Third, the judge could grant the injunction but not allow it to take effect until the state Supreme Court considers the issue.


Latest Op-Ed & Politics

Public school systems in the Tar Heel State are experiencing the highest declines in student enrollment in decades.
Republican leaders in the N.C. General Assembly say they will consider overriding the governorís veto of Senate Bill 37, the school reopening bill, as soon as Monday, March 1.
No significant difference in severity of pandemic between states that locked down and those that did not.
A group of Wake County parents has written Gov. Roy Cooper asking him to reopen schools for in-person instruction.
Approximately 18,000 Students to Participate in Career Awareness Programs Across North Carolina
James Antle of the Washington Examiner documents one noticeable impact of Donald Trumpís White House term.


Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed bipartisan legislation to reopen N.C. public schools statewide.
Tobias Hoonhout writes for National Review Online about the 45th presidentís upcoming appearance ot a major conservative event.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday released its analysis of Johnson & Johnsonís one-shot dose COVID-19 vaccine, supporting its authorization for emergency use.
It's the new command focus from Team Biden
Mental health experts who are also parents with students in Wake County Public Schools are sounding an alarm over a rising mental health crisis due to a lack of full-time classroom instruction.
The General Assembly is again considering a mild expansion of gun rights in this legislative session, a year after Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a similar Second Amendment bill.


Back to Top