Federal judge denies Lawrence bar’s request to stay open late despite COVID restrictions

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February 07 2021 05:30 pm

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A federal judge has ruled against a Lawrence bar in a lawsuit that sought to put on hold a county health ordinance that closed bars early due to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren denied a request for a preliminary injunction filed by Rita “Peach” Madl, president of Ricky Dean’s Inc., which operates The Sandbar.

The lawsuit sought to put on hold a Douglas County emergency health order issued by Dr. Thomas Marcellino ordering bars and restaurants with a liquor license to stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. and close by 12 a.m.

In the lawsuit, the owner of The Sandbar claimed that their due process and equal protection rights had been violated.

In his ruling Thursday, Judge Melgren said that in Kansas, a liquor license is not a right, but rather “purely a personal privilege.”

Melgren’s ruling also stated that the plaintiffs failed to meet the high standard required by law for a preliminary injunction to be granted.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health Department said they were grateful for the ruling.

“We are grateful for U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren’s denial of the Sandbar’s request for an injunction that would have stopped enforcement of the Douglas County public health order that regulates the hours of operation of establishments with liquor licenses to help slow the spread of coronavirus during this COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.

“The Court ruled that the plaintiff did not have a constitutionally protected property interest in their liquor license or a protected liberty interest, and therefore the Court was not required to analyze whether the plaintiffs were afforded an appropriate level of procedural due process before the county instituted the health order.”

“Every action we have taken through the authority of the health officer during this pandemic has been to protect the health of this community, and this work will continue until COVID-19 is no longer a broad threat to Douglas County residents.”

FOX4 has reached out to the owner of The Sandbar for comment.

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