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Texas Bar Owners File $10 Million Federal Lawsuit Against Gov. Abbott Over Shutdown

Workers board up bars on Sixth Street in Austin after Gov. Greg Abbott closed bars in Texas for the second time in three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic on June 26.
Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune
Workers board up bars on Sixth Street in Austin after Gov. Greg Abbott closed bars in Texas for the second time in three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic on June 26.

Several Texas bars and owners filed a $10 million federal lawsuit Tuesday afternoon against Gov. Greg Abbott, in an attempt to void his executive order shutting down bars for a second time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is the second lawsuit filed against Abbott this week after more than 30 Texas bars filed a lawsuit in Travis County over his recent shutdown order on Monday.

In addition to the damages, the lawsuit asks the court to stop Abbott from enforcing his executive order which closes bars and to prevent him from issuing similar orders in the future without proper notice. The suit said Abbott should give businesses more than 24 hours notice before shutting them down, "unless in the case of imminent threat of harm."

On Friday morning, Abbott ordered bars to close by noon and reduced restaurant capacity back down to 50% from 75% to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The lawsuit noted that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission recently posted a notice on its website saying it observed a “high level of compliance” by permit holders. The lawsuit claims that Abbott is abusing his emergency powers “without proper legal notice."

“With the erratic legal situation fueled (if not created) by the Governor and given that Plaintiffs have largely complied with the spirit & letter of the Governor’s voluntary guidelines, it came as an unfortunate surprise,” the lawsuit states.

Abbott did not respond to The Texas Tribune by publication. But in an interview with KOSA in Midland, he said that he sympathizes with the bar owners' plight.

“Listen, I can understand their frustration, I could understand them being angry, because this is their living, this is their livelihood, and so because for some, no fault of their own, they’re being shut down," he said to KOSA. "There are others who are being shut down because fault of their own, and so we need to be clear about that, but we also need to be clear that if we’re not strategic about making sure we slow the spread of the coronavirus in Texas, it will lead to a larger shutdown of the economy across the entire board."

"We do not want that to happen, so we do need everybody to do their part to make sure they use these best practices to slow the spread,” he added.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

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From The Texas Tribune

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