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Morgantown Bars file lawsuit against Gov. Jim Justice for stay at home orders

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 10:43 AM EDT
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va (WDTV) - Twelve bars and clubs in Morgantown are suing Gov. Jim Justice, the city of Morgantown, W.Va. Alcohol Beverage Control Administration Commissioner Frederic Wooton and Interim City Manager of Morgantown Emily Muzzarelli. The lawsuit, filed Sept. 21., claims that the four defendants have violated the bars' constitutional rights by forcing them to shut down.

The twelve bars include:

Whisper Night Club and Lounge, Fat Daddy’s, Almost Heaven Bar & Grill, Baby Squirrels, Big Times, Crab Shack Caribba and Dockside Grille, Joe Mama’s, Mountain Mamas Hot Spot, Mountain Mamas Tavern, SAR Tech, The Annex and 4th and Goal.

The lawsuit states that the executive orders did not allow the bars to contest the closures and therefor violated their due process rights.

The lawsuit states, “The inability to contest the entry of the Executive Orders and the inability to contest the application of the Executive Orders has substantially limited the procedural due process rights of [the bars].”

On March 16, Gov. Justice declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19. The lawsuit focuses on the executive orders the governor put into place.

The 35 executive orders, some referred to as the stay at home" orders, that Gov. Justice signed included the closing of casinos, gyms, salons and other “non-essential” businesses. The governor issued an executive order closing down all of the bars in Monongalia county which led to an indefinite closure order.

Bars and Clubs are still closed and the governor hasn’t lifted the ban yet.

“As far as the bars, if they sue, they have every right, every constitutional right to do just that. I say pour it on. But I’m going to continue to make tough decisions and I’m going to continue to do the right thing,” says Gov. Justice.

Martin Sheehan of Wheeling is the attorney representing the bars in the lawsuit.

“Sometime last week, a judge in Pennsylvania concluded that Pennsylvania governor had authority to declare an emergency and to do some things but he could not...we never had an emergency that lasted forever I mean, that’s just not how things function,” says Sheehan.

Sheehan says that the judge questioned whether the governor of Pennsylvania had the authority to act as a one man band.

“Our clients are losing their livelihood, they’re prohibited from functioning,” Sheehan says.

The lawsuit alleges state and local officials allowed for unconstitutional activity by passing several emergency ordinances.

Wheeling-based attorney, Martin Sheehan is seeking damages and attorney fees from each defendant for what the plaintiffs say is, “taking without just compensation.”

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