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Clark County bars suing over latest closure order

CARSON CITY – Plaintiffs representing 37 Clark County bars have gone to court to block Gov. Steve Sisolak’s latest order closing alcohol-serving establishments to stem the spread of COVID-19, claiming they are being unfairly singled out.

“The disparate treatment of bars and taverns is unreasonable because there is no rational basis for treating bars and taverns differently than other, similarly situated, non-essential businesses,” lawyers for the plaintiffs write in the lawsuit filed over the weekend in Clark County District Court. It seeks a court order rescinding the governor’s directive, which took effect Friday. Bars in seven counties with elevated COVID-19 transmission rates were closed under the directive.

Bars were closed along with other nonessential businesses in March but were permitted to reopen May 29 under the state’s phased recovery plan. Sisolak reinstated the closures last week amid a monthlong rapid rise in Nevada’s COVID-19 infection rate and resulting stress on the health case system, and citing evidence of noncompliance with social distancing directives in bars.

The reinstated restrictions permit bars, breweries and other drinking establishments that don’t serve food to offer curbside pickup.

In their filing, plaintiffs say compliance checkers initially found only 48 percent compliance in bars in checks conducted between June 24 and July 2, but 80 percent compliance in bars during checks on July 3. They also say none of the 39 businesses cited for noncompliance, among 1,600 checked between June 26 and July 10, were alcohol-serving businesses.

“Despite the available evidence showing compliance by bars and taverns, (the bar-closing directive) unfairly and unlawfully singles them out for closure,” the filing states. “Notably, it does not close home improvement stores, water parks, casino floors, or casino pools, or other businesses found to have similar (or more serious) compliance issues.”

Further, plaintiffs claim there is “no evidence that sitting at a bar top or at a table within the bar area increases the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 so long as the bar or tavern complies” with social distancing requirements in the state’s Phase Two reopening plan.

The governor’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.

News of the lawsuit came as Clark County for the first time reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter. Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

Bar owner lawsuit by Las Vegas Review-Journal on Scribd

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