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Longtime Franklin County bar sues Gov. DeSantis, DBPR Secretary over emergency order closing bars

Posted at 1:43 PM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-15 13:43:19-04

CARRABELLE, Fla. (WTXL) — Harry’s Bar and Package in Carrabelle has been serving up drinks since 1942.

But the executive order halting bar operations is threatening its history. Now they’re suing Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, calling the order an "extreme and draconian drastic action."

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Franklin County Circuit Court by Tallahassee attorney Ethan Way.

The suit seeks a temporary injunction stopping the state from enforcing the order as well as declaratory judgment ruling that the order in unconstitutional.

"Every day that passes, [Harry's] and its employees fail to earn an income," the lawsuit reads. "The irreparable harm caused cannot be undone until the Order is lifted."

The lawsuit contends that the June 26 executive order issued by DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears "takes the lazy and easy route" and unjustly punishes all bars regardless if they were compliant with state orders or not.

"Instead of enforcing compliance against bars that violated the provisions, the Secretary's action threw out the proverbial 'baby with the bathwater' and capriciously ordered all bars in the state closed for consumption of alcohol on the premise," the lawsuit states. "To be clear, [Harry's] does not support throwing a baby out of any window or door. That's just cruel. Like this Order."

Way also contends that the state failed to lay out why restaurants can continue to serve alcohol while bars can't.

"[DeSantis and Beshears] can provide no data or evidence that establishments serving food somehow have a lower rate of spread of COVID-19 than an establishment that does not meet the threshold under the Order," the lawsuit states.

The suit also noted that Harry's doesn't cater to younger patrons, which the state cited as their reason for enacting the order in the first place, and contended that the waterfront bar was a "locals-oriented landmark" that serves as a single example of the hardship faced bars around the state.