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Appeals court rules mandated bar closures during pandemic was unconstitutional

The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision to shut down bars during the COVID-19 pandemic violated the state constitution. The court sent a lawsuit from the state’s bar and tavern association back to a trial court.

In May 2020, Cooper’s administration allowed restaurants to re-open under certain conditions, while keeping most bars closed. Cooper said his decision was based in part on “data and science.”

Nearly 200 bar owners sued. The court ruled in favor of Cooper at the original trial. The state presented news articles saying there was a higher risk of infection from being in bars.

The appeals court of three Republican judges, however, wrote that a news article is not a scientific study. It added that the unequal treatment of bars was illogical and not rationally related to the state’s stated objective of slowing the spread of COVID-19. The ruling was not a full victory for bar owners.

The Appeals Court dismissed the bar owners’ argument that the shutdown was an unconstitutional taking of their property.