TALLAHASSEE — The owner of three Orlando bars has gone to the Florida Supreme Court in a dispute over whether bars should receive compensation due to government-ordered closures at the start of the COVID pandemic -19.
Orlando Bar Group, LLC filed a notice this week that is a first step in asking the Supreme Court to hear the case against the State and Orange County. The move came after a 5th District Court of Appeals panel rejected arguments that the closures amounted to what is called a “reverse conviction” and should lead to damages payments.
The business, which does business as The Basement bar, The Attic bar and The Treehouse bar, went to appeals court last year after Orange County Circuit Judge, John Jordan, dismissed the case.
The trial also initially included bars from other parts of the state.In At trial, the bars argued that the COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 were arbitrary and amounted to an unconstitutional taking of property rights.
“The orders were arbitrarily and capriciously enforced against bars as a class of business that were not permitted to be open for business, and the enforcement of the higher standards for the complainants’ class of business was not not rationally related to the goal of preventing an infection of COVID-19,” the lawsuit said.
But the appeals court panel dismissed those arguments, citing, for example, an earlier case that found fireworks companies weren’t entitled to compensation after the state in 1998 halted sales of fireworks due to forest fires.
“If the state can use its police power to temporarily ban the sale of fireworks to prevent wildfires during an exceptionally dry period in Florida, then of course the state can also use its powers to police to temporarily ban or restrict the sale of alcohol in an effort to limit the spread of a then-misunderstood, highly contagious and deadly virus,” the appeals court said in a ruling originally issued in April and revised in June. .
As is common, the notice filed this week did not detail the arguments Orlando Bar Group will make to the Supreme Court. The notice was posted Thursday on the court’s website.
Bar closures became a high-profile — and hotly debated — issue in 2020 as state and local governments attempted to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The lawsuit stems from a series of state and local orders that began in March 2020. At first, bars were barred from selling alcohol for on-site consumption, although a series of changes were made restrictions in the following months. Governor Ron DeSantis rescinded the restrictions in September 2020.
The case named as defendants DeSantis, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and Orange County. Orlando Bar Group attorneys include former state senator David Simmons.