America's Bars Are Shutting Down Again and Owners Aren't Happy

Owners in Arizona and North Carolina are suing their governors over new closure orders due to coronavirus spikes, and California could be next.
July 14, 2020, 3:43pm
A bartender pours a beer while wearing a mask and face shield amid the coronavirus pandemic at Slater's 50/50 Wednesday, July 1, 2020, in Santa Clarita, Calif.

After experiencing a huge surge in coronavirus cases, states across the U.S. are being forced to roll back their reopening plans. And bar owners are not happy.

Most recently, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the shutting of all bars and indoor operations of businesses such as restaurants, movie theaters, and more, after a month of allowing bars to operate. And though bar owners in the state haven’t yet put up a challenge to the new closure order, their counterparts in states like Arizona and North Carolina are taking their governors to court over the closures.

Newsom, a Democrat elected in 2018, announced the new rules in a tweet.

As of Tuesday morning, Newsom hadn’t published a formal executive order, nor has he announced the closures in a press release.

Over the past week, the state has averaged 8,000 new cases per day, more than double the seven-day average this time last month, and hospitalizations are rising as well. Additionally, Los Angeles and San Diego schools—which together educate more than 700,000 students—announced on Monday that they were going online-only in the fall.

While Newsom’s move is the most drastic (but necessary) yet, other states have been taking steps to roll back or pause their reopening plans. At least 22 states have paused their reopening plans since last month, according to a report from USA Today, and on Monday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, announced new restrictions on indoor gatherings and requirements to wear masks outdoors.

In late June, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, temporarily held up moving to the state’s planned Phase 3 of reopening as cases began spiking in the state. Cooper is expected to announce later today whether the state will move to the third phase of his reopening plan, though the state has not fared any better over the last three weeks while remaining in the second phase.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, ordered bars to shut down again and implemented a statewide mask requirement last month as the state became a hotspot for COVID-19. In Arizona, another major hotspot of positive cases, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey recently ordered bars, gyms, and movie theaters to close for 30 days. (Ducey is also embroiled in a mini-scandal in his home state after a photo recently posted to social media showed him not wearing a mask or social distancing at a graduation party. Ducey claimed the picture was taken in early June, prior to the state implementing new restrictions.)

Bar owners in all three states as well as Florida have filed lawsuits against their state’s governors over the orders to close down. In North Carolina, where bars have been closed since March, bar owners lost a battle in state court in late June to force Cooper to allow them to reopen. Cooper has also vetoed bills passed by the Republican-led General Assembly to allow bars to reopen.

“We just want to go to work,” one Pasadena, Texas, bar owner told a local ABC affiliate. “It's not fair that at a restaurant right behind us, I can go sit at their bar and get hammered on margaritas, but I can't come to my club and drink a beer because it's a bar."

Cover: A bartender pours a beer while wearing a mask and face shield amid the coronavirus pandemic at Slater's 50/50 Wednesday, July 1, 2020, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)