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Suing Mad: Texas Bar Owners are Suing Governor Abbott

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As cases of COVID-19 surge in Texas, businesses such as barbershops, hair salons, and others are currently allowed to remain open and operate. Bars, however, are required to shut down. In response, 22 Texas bar owners have brought a lawsuit against Governor Greg Abbott, as well as the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, citing unfair discrimination. Representing lawyers are arguing the decision to only close select business types goes against the Texas constitution. They are asking for “compensatory damages,” and for a temporary ban on Abbott’s order by a judge.

Texas bars were ordered closed at midnight on March 20, then reopened to 25% capacity on May 19, and expanded to 50% in June. Concern arose, however, toward the end of June when cases of COVID-19 rose dramatically. On the 25th, the Lone Star State recorded 5,996 new cases, at the time, the highest single-day total of positive tests for the disease. The next day, Governor Abbott announced an immediate closure of bars and other outside businesses, blaming the case increase on “certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars.”

Suing Mad: Texas Bar Owners are Suing Governor Abbott

Photo: @rivera.ls via Twenty20

The lawsuit of the bar owners connects to a larger legal campaign by former chair of the Harris County Republican Party, Jared Woodfill. The Houston lawyer has previously sued Governor Abbott and top county officials, six times in opposition to virus-related restrictions. Emergency orders are claimed to be justified by Abbott via a 1975 state law, giving his office special powers in times of disaster. Despite repeatedly citing this law, per Woodfill, the state constitution notes it is the Texas legislature alone who can suspend laws in the midst of a pandemic.

Currently, the number of COVID-19 cases in Texas is 179,137. As of July 2, 2020, a statewide mandate is in effect which requires Texans to wear masks in public places in any county with 20 or more cases. Those not in compliance face a warning, then for a second incident, they can be fined up to $250, but no one will be jailed, according to Abbott.