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Arizona Bars Will Take Appeal to Supreme Court if Necessary, Says Lawyer

Bar owners rallied at the capitol last month against the governor's order shutting them down.EXPAND
Bar owners rallied at the capitol last month against the governor's order shutting them down.
Lauren Cusimano

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge has denied an attempt by bar owners to strike down the executive order that closed the doors of their businesses.

Judge Pamela Gates ruled that Governor Doug Ducey acted reasonably in June when he singled out bars but allowed restaurants to continue serving alcohol.

She pointed out that bars with adequate safety precautions have been able to secure permission from the Arizona Department of Health Services to open, including a significant number of the plaintiffs.

Ilan Wurman, an Arizona State University associate law professor who is representing the bars, said he will ask for a quick hearing so they can move ahead with the appeal process.

"We think it's going to take a Supreme Court ruling to get what we want," he told Phoenix New Times.

The governor's office did not respond to a request for comment on the ruling.

The September 8 ruling, made in response to a motion by the bar owners to have the governor's order suspended while the case proceeded, is not final. But it does signal that the challenge is unlikely to have much luck with this judge.

In affirming Ducey's order, Gates emphasized the threat of COVID-19 and cited a declaration from Banner Health's chief clinical officer arguing that bars posed a "uniquely dangerous environment" for COVID-19.

Dr. Marjorie Bessel had told the court that factors including the fluid social setting, consumption of alcohol that might inhibit precaution taking, the tendency to encourage loud or close talking, and attraction to younger people with high rates of COVID-19, bars were prime for the spread of COVID-19.

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Gates also rejected bar owners' second argument that Ducey's emergency powers are unconstitutional, finding that they are constrained by law to putting into effect emergency management measures. She did, however, say the governor's order allowing restaurants to sell takeaway alcohol was an overreach of his authority.

The bar owners' legal argument had been bolstered by Attorney General Mark Brnovich, whose office weighed in last week to claim that the decision to target bars but not restaurants was discriminatory.

Read the full ruling here:

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