SHELBY CO., Tenn. (WMC) - As residents and small business owners await an updated Shelby County health directive, many are asking the health department to stay away from large scale shutdowns.
A draft order leaked over the weekend showing the department is considering going back to a stay-at-home order, shutting down indoor dining.
A large group of restaurateurs and wait staff gathered Monday in downtown Memphis to protest such an order. They say they’ve been following guidelines to the letter and support enforcement on those who aren’t, but they don’t support being forced to close.
Shelby County Commissioners Mick Wright and Amber Mills spoke after the protest in support of restaurant workers. They say they are standing up for small businesses.
The proposed directive, which is not finalized, would close all non-essential businesses and ban in-person dining for 2 weeks.
“Our livelihoods are at stake,” said Shawn Danko, owner of Kooky Canuck, at the protest. “We are asking to serve the community in a safe and responsible manner, as we have always done.”
“It’s a violation of the constitution and that’s why we are getting ready to file suit,” said lawyer Duncan Ragsdale.
Ragsdale and fellow lawyer Bill Bruce says they’ve been contacted to represent a group of restaurants ready to file a lawsuit challenging health directive 16 if it is adopted.
“It will close people for good. The people that I know, can’t last, if they can only do takeout,” Ragsdale said.
According to a news release, many local restaurant owners and entrepreneurs reached out to Shelby County leaders. They told county leaders they’re barely holding on financially and explained to them the impact of losing their livelihood and loyal employees.
Earlier this summer, a federal judge ruled in favor of the Shelby County Health Department when some owners of limited-service restaurants challenged a health directive forcing them to close.