The Florida 5sand The District Court of Appeals upheld a trial court’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by owners of Orlando bars that were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Orlando Bar Group and its three establishments had sued Governor Ron DeSantis, the state Department of Business and Occupational Regulation, and county officials after bars and restaurants were ordered to close to help prevent the spread of the virus in 2020.
The lawsuits’ complaint was seen as somewhat ironic, given claims by DeSantis and other Republican state leaders that Florida is “the freest state” and that virus warrants were inappropriate. Florida’s shutdown orders were shorter than many other states.
Nonetheless, nightclub owners claimed the closures and other restrictions constituted government revenue and “reverse condemnation”, which entitled them to compensation. The Orange County Trial Court and the 5and DCA disagreed, citing previous court rulings on revenue and government regulations.
“The appellants raise several issues on appeal; several are worth discussing, while others are not,” the appeals court said.
The government’s pandemic emergency orders amounted to a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages for just 17 days, after which businesses were gradually allowed to resume limited operations, the court explained. The COVID orders also represented “a valid use of state police power to protect the general welfare,” the justices noted.
“If the state can use its police power to temporarily ban the sale of fireworks to prevent wildfires during an exceptionally dry period in Florida, then of course the state can also use its powers to police in an effort to limit the spread of a highly infectious and deadly virus,” the April 8 notice read.
The court also noted that the owners of the bar had not properly preserved the matter for consideration on appeal.
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