A group of Kentucky pubs and restaurants is the latest to sue Gov. Andy Beshear over his COVID-19 emergency orders, this time seeking to block them and prevent new ones from being issued.
Goodwood Brewing Co., which operates three locations in Louisville, Frankfort and Lexington; Louisville’s Dundee Tavern; and Georgetown’s Trindy’s restaurant filed their suit in Scott County Circuit Court on Monday.
It calls for “temporary and permanent injunctions” against Beshear’s pandemic executive orders and for Beshear to be barred from issuing new coronavirus-related orders in accordance with three bills that passed through the Kentucky legislature this session.
The governor is currently contesting those bills — House Bill 1, Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2 — in court.
HB 1 would allow businesses, schools, nonprofits and churches to stay open if they meet COVID-19 guidelines set by either the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Kentucky’s executive branch, whichever is least restrictive.
SB 1 limits the governor’s ability to issue executive orders during a state of emergency to 30 days unless extended by the General Assembly, and Senate Bill 2 gives legislative committees more oversight and control over emergency administrative regulations from the governor.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd last Wednesday ordered a temporary injunction blocking the implementation of those three bills, a move the new suit claims was “in error” and “does not bind Plaintiffs here.”
“While the governor does have the authority to respond to emergencies, that power isn’t unlimited and can’t be used forever,” Oliver Dunford, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, said in a statement. “The legislature has the constitutional obligation to weigh in on the Commonwealth’s emergency powers and ensure they are not used to arbitrarily restrict individuals and businesses. Even during times of crisis, the government must adhere to the separation of powers to protect people’s individual liberty and freedom.”
Pacific Legal Foundation, which describes itself as “a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse,” is representing the businesses for free in the case.
Under current coronavirus orders, Kentucky businesses such as bars and restaurants are allowed to operate at 60% capacity. The suit claims those orders expired on Friday under the new bills and that the bills bar Beshear from issuing new orders.
The governor has been party to numerous lawsuits involving schools, churches and more related to his COVID-19 orders since the pandemic began a year ago.
In August, Dundee Tavern joined another bar and a gaming supplies vendor in suing the governor in Jefferson Circuit Court over the coronavirus regulations in place at that time.
The new lawsuit also names Eric Friedlander, secretary of the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and public health commissioner Dr. Steven Stack as defendants.
Courier Journal reporters Joe Sonka and Dahlia Ghabour contributed to this report.