John W. Dill, PA, a Winter Park-based lawyer, is representing a group of owners of popular Orlando bars in a lawsuit filed against Governor Ron DeSantis and Halsey Beshears, secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), on July 10. The suit is in response to Emergency Order 2020-09, which states that any establishments that make more than 50 percent of their gross revenue from alcohol sales are no longer permitted to serve on property.
The Plaintiffs claim the Order is in violation of their constitutional rights to equal protection and due process on the basis that restaurants that contain bars are still permitted to serve alcohol on premises as long as alcohol sales account for less than half their revenue. According to an announcement released by Dill, the Plaintiffs do not understand why revenue contribution should determine which establishments are barred from vital business operations. The filing parties are the owners of Aero, Cahoots, Latitudes, Chillers, Clandestino, Ember, The Hanson Building, Irish Shannon’s, North, and The Patio.
Beshears cited bars’ noncompliance to COVID-19 guidelines in the order, however, Dill’s clients claim to have engaged in strict application of said guidelines. “My clients have complied with all safety mandates and have exceeded the guidelines set forth by the government and CDC,” Dill said. “Instead of penalizing violators of the guidelines, Governor DeSantis has thrown the baby out with the bathwater and prevented law-abiding citizens from making a living.”
Rather than filing for monetary damages to help continue paying their employees, the Plaintiffs are suing for a temporary injunction that will prevent enforcement of the order as well as a declaratory judgement that the order is unconstitutional. They are arguing that their businesses will suffer greatly from this order and possibly not be able to recover.
If it is decided during the hearing that the order is not to be enforced allowing the bars to reopen, the filing parties ensure that they will continue to follow local and state-mandated guidelines to help slow the spread of COVID-19 to the best of their ability. “My clients are in favor of reducing the spread of COVID-19, but can’t understand why serving a certain amount of food is the deciding factor on who can stay open and who cannot,” Dill said.
A date and time have not yet been announced for a hearing.
the32789 reached out to the governor’s office for comment and did not receive a response. Upon contacting the DBPR, its Office of Communications shared that the Department does not comment on pending litigation.