Last week, 6th Street Business Partners LLC, a group of bar owners from around the state that includes Michael Klein, president of the Texas Bar and Nightclub Association, filed an application for a temporary restraining order against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. They want to prevent enforcement of his order that closed all bars in Texas on June 26.
Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman set a date for a video hearing for July 22 to determine if he will grant the order.
“This is huge development in our legal effort against Governor Abbott to reopen our businesses,” Klein wrote in an email.
Setting the hearing doesn’t in itself mean the court will allow bars to open. It’s an opportunity for both sides to present evidence and allow testimony. The court could decide the matter either way, but the court is at least considering it.
If the judge grants the request for the injunction, bars could be allowed to reopen. Then the state could appeal the order or modify the shutdown orders.
Many bar owners are frustrated at what they consider unfair treatment from the state government during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions placed on them.
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For instance, restaurants with bars are allowed to sell mixed drinks to-go, serve guests up to 50% capacity for indoor dining and 100% in outdoor dining, while observing social distancing requirements.
Whereas, bars with kitchens can't sell a few corn dogs nor burgers or nachos to socially distanced guests anywhere, including outdoor spaces. Perhaps even more significant, they can't sell mixed drinks to-go.
The Texas Restaurant Association (a separate group, not affiliated with this suit or the TBNA) previously requested the state expand the definition of a restaurant, which would allow some bars to reopen.
A group of Dallas bar owners also recently filed a similar lawsuit.