MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A federal judge has denied a request for a temporary restraining order filed on behalf of several limited-service restaurants forced to close by a Shelby County public health directive.
Two groups of businesses sued the Shelby County government and health department earlier this month, claiming they were arbitrarily singled out with no evidence they were responsible for an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Limited-service restaurants are those where the sale of food is 50 percent or less of the total revenue. It also includes bars.
Both suits asked a judge to issue a temporary restraining order and allow them to reopen.
A judge in one of the cases -- filed on behalf of T.J. Mulligans, RAB Memphis, Hadley’s Pub, Tavern 018, Brewski’s Sports Bar and Grille, Murphy’s Public House and Canvas of Memphis -- denied the request Wednesday.
In his response, Judge Jon McCalla writes the “defendants’ actions reflect a concerted effort to respond reasonably to a pressing health crisis” and “the decision to close bars and limited service restaurants was based on significant input from the Center for Disease Control.”
“The Court is not in the best position to make public health decisions,” writes McCalla. “Nor is the Court tasked with making these decisions. It is the Shelby County Health Department’s role to decide whether public health would be best served by the continued closure of each category of bars and restaurants in Shelby County, Tennessee.”
It’s a setback for the clients of Randy Songstad who says he’s disappointed int he ruling but unlikely to file an appeal.
“He applied the law,” said Songstad. “I don’t disagree in how he ruled. We are disappointed obviously in the situation. The plaintiffs are struggling to find out how they’re going to make it over the next 30 or 45 days or longer. Many of them won’t. They’ll go out of business.”
A decision on the second case is pending.