FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Bars in northwest Arkansas are back to square one after a judge dismissed a lawsuit over the 11 p.m. curfew filed by several bar owners.
For weeks, KNWA/FOX24 has followed this lawsuit that was filed by nearly two dozen bar owners after Governor Hutchinson extended their 11:00 p.m. curfew from January 3rd to February 3rd, but now, that lawsuit has been tossed out.
Wednesday morning, Judge Wendell Griffin ruled in favor of the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Beverage Control, and Governor Hutchinson.
“I’m glad that Judge Griffin made the decision that he did today. I’ve consistently followed the law on that,” said Governor Hutchinson in a press conference Tuesday.
This is not the case for attorney, B.C. Pickett. He is one of the two lawyers that represented the bar owners.
“Just to single out one industry and to reduce their earning capacity by hours of operation at their peak hours — it is just unconstitutional and that’s the ground we still stand on,” Pickett said.
Judge Griffin ruled in favor of the state because he felt the curfew was in the best interest of citizens, specifically in light of the coronavirus, according to Pickett.
“He ruled that, if you have a bar, you don’t have an absolute right to sell liquor,” Pickett said. “Our argument was, you might have a license to sell liquor but you still have an absolute right to have the government not impede on your business.”
The owner of Piano Bar, Aaron Schauer, was part of the lawsuit. He said this 11:00 p.m. curfew has hurt his business greatly and has not seemed to help slow the spread of the virus either.
“That’s the position I’m… even though I have a line out my door of people that could be coming in to support the business,” Schauer said. “This is not a failed business, it’s a failure of policy.”
Schauer said now he is just hopeful the curfew which is set to expire on February 3rd will not be extended again. Governor Hutchinson said this decision has yet to be made.
“If you want to see Dickson Street devoid of bars, the entertainment district devoid of bars and restaurants… that’s where we’re headed,” Schauer said.
Pickett said he will be meeting with the owners to discuss whether or not they want to appeal this case. For Schauer, he said he does not as of right now.