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Arkansas Bars Sue Over Coronavirus Curfew

At least 20 bars in Arkansas have filed lawsuits against the state claiming a recent curfew is discriminating against their businesses.

The lawsuit, says The Fayetteville Flyer, was registered in Pulaski County last week. The complaint, filed by Little Rock attorney Gary Barnett, accuses the Arkansas authorities of acting “arbitrarily” to issue an order requiring certain facilities to shut down at 11:00 pm every night.

Barnett and his clients found that bars were the only type of business governed by the curfew.

While many other states have imposed similar restrictions on bars and restaurants, the Arkansas lawsuit alleges that the emergency decree “[does] contain no factual, data-driven or other bases for regulating the peak times of the facilities. “

According to The Fayetteville Flyer, the lawsuit made several statements of evidence. For example, reprinted a chart released Nov. 18 by the Arkansas Health Department showing active coronavirus cases across the state at the same time bar-specific restrictions took effect.

Interestingly, the department’s own data suggests that of all active coronavirus patients in the state, only 37 reported having recently visited a bar. The same table found that thousands more were in public schools and retail stores, while hundreds had recently visited churches and gyms.

The state’s curfew originally expired on January 3, but has been extended for at least another month.

While the Arkansas Department of Health has not yet commented on the lawsuit, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson has defended its rules. Pressured by a journalist on whether Arkansas should maintain restrictions on companies that have not been shown to make the spread of the coronavirus worse, Hutchinson said he was waiting for results before making big decisions.

Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas Governor, in 2019. Image via Wikimedia Commons via the Office of Public Affairs on Flickr. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“Well, if you use that logic, there is no reason to keep our restaurants at two-thirds of capacity as our cases go up. So why not allow full capacity?” Asked Hutchinson. “That doesn’t make sense to me either.

“As for the bars, I’d like to speak to the contact tracers,” he said. “That’s why we only extended it by thirty days. When we see that this is not necessary, I will be the first to look forward to picking it up [order]. ”

Dr. Arkansas Minister of Health, Jose Romero, told reporters at the same conference that while bars may not contribute significantly to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the purpose of state orders is to keep unnecessary socialization to a minimum.

“The 11pm curfew is a way to decrease socialization,” said Romero. “Alcohol and COVID don’t mix. Your ability to make right decisions decreases in a social setting, right. So we close the bars sooner, remove people from these environments and try to decrease them in these settings. “

But Hannah Withers, plaintiff and owner of Maxines Tap Room in Fayetteville, said Flyer bars and other such establishments suffered disproportionately from Arkansas’ “arbitrary” restrictions.

“This is not a partisan problem,” Withers told the Flyer, “this is an industry problem.”

“Most [bars] We’ve had around 25% occupancy in the past few months to account for social distancing, and we’ve also lost $ 22,000 in sales in the past six weeks since the curfew was lifted, “added Withers. “To extend the curfew during one of our slowest times of the year, especially when it looks like there is no rhyme or reason for it, our industry seems like a scapegoat in all of this.”

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