CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) — Bar owners in North Carolina are calling on Governor Roy Cooper (D) to compensate them for lost business due to Cooper’s COVID shutdowns.
In the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association’s latest brief, they’re asking N.C. Court of Appeals to restore their lawsuit against Cooper. It was previously dismissed, but the Bar and Tavern Association isn’t giving up, and they’re not the only ones trying to sue Cooper for lost income.
The NCBAT case is currently in the Wake County Court of Appeals, but they represent bar owners across the State.
Their main issue with Cooper: His executive orders that shut down businesses during the pandemic.
Initially, Cooper ordered most businesses to shut down, but summer came around, and restrictions were lifted for most of them– but bars didn’t get those same privileges. Since private bars had stricter capacity limits and the shutdowns lasted longer, many of the owners argued the State should have to compensate them.
Chuck Kitchen, an attorney representing other bar owners in a different lawsuit against Cooper, said North Carolina’s constitution is one of only a couple in the United States that gives citizens the right to pursue this type of lawsuit against the state government.
“What is in common with all three cases is something called the Fruit of Your Labor’s Clause in the North Carolina Constitution,” Kitchen explained. “But what that does is says you have a right to work and get the money from the fruit of your labor, and we believe that the State does not have the authority simply to shut you down. And that’s our argument.”
Kitchen says these cases will not go through the judicial process quickly; they’ll most likely take years to finalize.
If the bar owners win, since they’re suing Governor Cooper in an official capacity and the State of North Carolina, the taxpayers will technically be footing the bill for the compensation.
Matt Wohlfarth, owner of Dilworth Neighborhood Grille, said since he had the option to serve food during the shutdowns, he was able to stay afloat with to-go orders, but bars without food weren’t so lucky.
“It seems to me they would have a claim,” Wohlfarth said. “You know, I’m sure they have debt that accumulated during that time that they still haven’t been able to pay off. I know business is back, but it’s still hard. It’s still really hard.”
Queen City News in Charlotte contacted Governor Cooper’s office for comment but did not hear back.