Lawrence club owner files legal action challenging Douglas County health order limiting hours
photo by: Journal-World File Photo
The owner of an adult entertainment club in Lawrence is taking legal action against a Douglas County health order that restricts its hours of operation.
A health order had required Douglas County establishments with liquor licenses to stop serving alcohol at 9 p.m. and to close at 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 4, the Journal-World has reported. The order came amid rising numbers of cases of COVID-19 in the area.
The petition, filed late last week in Douglas County District Court, asks the court to prohibit the county from closing Paradise Saloon during “statutory operating hours.” Under Kansas law, venues, clubs and bars can serve alcohol anytime from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Paradise Saloon, 1697 Highway 40 in Lawrence, is licensed as a private club, meaning it is not open to the general public and therefore “the general public is not adversely affected,” according to the petition.
But in a letter to Robert E. “Tuck” Duncan, attorney for the club, the director of Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health wrote that at 10:30 p.m. Sept. 25, the club had its lights on and more than 10 cars in the parking lot and was in violation of the health order. The letter stated that continued noncompliance may result in fines and/or legal action, and that the business may be subject to “injunctive relief, including closure.”
Duncan, in the petition, wrote that the club and its owner, Zach Snyder, would “suffer irreparable injury” unless the court grants a temporary restraining order and injunction to prevent the county from restricting the club’s hours of operation.
“Being closed when there have been no reports of any cases of infection at this establishment, and where social distancing and mask wearing are practiced, will cost the Plaintiff thousands in revenue and potentially harm the enterprise such that it would have to close permanently,” the petition states. “Most of the business activity at Plaintiff’s establishment occurs after 9:00 p.m.”
In addition, the petition states that if establishments’ hours must be restricted, the time of day should be at the discretion of the licensee. Although early evening hours may be prime time for some businesses, that’s not the case for nightlife entertainment, Duncan said.
The health department’s warning letter came a few days before an Oct. 1 health order that loosened restrictions to allow bars, restaurants and entertainment venues to serve alcohol until 11 p.m. and stay open until midnight.
Duncan said the change was “immaterial,” and the underlying principle of the petition was the same.
The petition also argues that the portion of the health order restricting to certain hours establishments’ “cocktails-to-go” services, which the Kansas Legislature has allowed during the pandemic, is not justified. It asks that that portion be stricken from the health order.
Karrey Britt, a spokesperson for Douglas County, said the county has no comment on pending litigation.
As of Tuesday afternoon, a hearing date had not yet been set.
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