A lawsuit contending that the state’s 11 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants that serve alcohol is unconstitutional has been dismissed by Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen.
A group of 23 Northwest Arkansas restaurant, nightclub and bar owners filed suit against Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas Department of Health secretary Dr. Jose Romero and Alcoholic Beverage and Control Commission director Doralee Chandler for imposing the 11 p.m. curfew on bars, restaurants and clubs serving alcohol. According to the owners, this curfew is negatively impacting their businesses.
This curfew was imposed on Nov. 19, 2020 and is set to expire Feb. 3 unless extended.
On Tuesday, Jan. 26, Griffen dismissed the lawsuit, noting that the complainants had not suffered a “procedural due process deprivation.” Their licenses, he noted, were a “privilege, not based on a fundamental right” and that the public health basis of the curfew was a “legitimate government interest.”
Grifften dismissed the lawsuit, as well as dismissing, with prejudice, the petitioners’ request for a declaratory judgement and injunctive relief.
The restaurants and bars participating in the lawsuit include Ryleighs Inc., DBA Ryleighs Bar; WPGL, Inc. DBA Boars’ Nest BBQ; S. Drewturner, LLC, DBA On the Mark Sports Bar & Grill; Van & Company, LLC, DBA Z330; Arkansas Black, DBA Smoke & Barrel; CT124, DBA Crossroads Tavern; Bugsy’s Inc, DBA Bugsy’s; West End Bar, LLC., DBA West End; Los Bobos, LLC., DBA Los Bobos; 1947, LLC., DBA The Amendment & Roger’s Rec; Stir of Fayetteville, Inc., DBA Big; Shotz, Inc., DBA Shotz; Kingfish of Fayetteville, Inc., DBA Kingfish; Yee-Hawg, Inc., DBA Yee-Hawg; OKP, LLC, DBA The Piano Bar; WWDD, LLC, DBA Cannibal & Craft; Arkansas; Sideways, Inc., DBA Sideways Bar; Block 23 LLC, DBA Pinpoint Fayetteville; MPT, Inc., DBA Buster Bellys Bar; Speakeasy, Inc. DBA C4 Night Club and Lounge; and Gitwith Bubbly, LLC, DBA Maxines Taproom.
This is the second lawsuit Hutchinson has faced over state COVID-19 orders. In October 2020, a group of state Republican legislators filed suit, claiming that Hutchinson had overshot his executive authority in issuing COVID-19 mandates and ignored the state’s legislature.
Griffen also decided this case, ruling in Hutchinson’s favor. In this suit, Griffen ruled that Hutchinson had operated according to powers granted by the state legislature.