Lawyer: Vegas-Area Bars Might Open Again Midnight Thursday

Judge Affirmed Gov’s Order To Keep Bars Closed Earlier In The Week

Associated Press
August 19, 2020 - 4:32 am
Group of drunk friends toasting cocktails at bar restautant

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas bars and taverns might be allowed to reopen Thursday at midnight, even though a Nevada judge decided not to force Gov. Steve Sisolak to lift a coronavirus closure order, an attorney who sued the state said Tuesday.

Attorney Dennis Kennedy pointed to a directive the governor issued last Friday that would allow an earlier closure order to expire unless a coronavirus task force extends the restrictions based on its assessment of Clark County’s case load.

The task force meets Thursday, just hours before restrictions would expire.

“You can be sure the bar owners are going to be there to say, ‘We’re ready to go and we’ll comply with all the laws,’” Kennedy told The Associated Press. “They’re ready to open.”

Sisolak’s directive lifts restrictions and would let bars revert to earlier business restrictions that went into effect May 29.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to messages about the bar restrictions directive.

It says bars, breweries, distilleries and wineries that don’t serve food can open at 50% capacity if all employees wear face coverings and table-service customers sit 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart. Patrons can sit at the bar if seats are similarly spaced.

Clark County District Court Judge Kerry Earley’s order late Monday said the governor was within his power to close bars.

Kennedy had argued last week that the closures violated constitutional rights to equal protection and due process for his 62 clients, hurt hundreds of similar businesses, and unfairly put thousands of employees out of work.

Most bar businesses hold restricted state gambling licenses allowing 15 or fewer slot machines, the attorney said, and most need revenue from bar-top video gambling machines that have been off-limits due to the governor’s July 27 order.

The machines typically offer poker, blackjack and keno games. Some bars and taverns have in recent weeks moved the devices to cabinets away from bar tops.

The judge noted that Nevada’s virus mitigation measures are evolving, and the governor has several times modified the emergency order he first invoked March 12.

Earley pointed to Sisolak’s comment on July 27 that “in hindsight closing all bars was not the fairest way to do it.”

Bars closed in March and remained shuttered for 48 days before being allowed to reopen June 30. Bars in and around Las Vegas and Reno were ordered closed again July 27 after coronavirus cases spiked in those areas.

Meanwhile, casinos statewide were permitted to reopen June 4 and remain open.

Sisolak recently promised a narrower focus but tougher enforcement of mask-wearing and social distancing rules statewide, with punishment for violators based on updated daily data. The new enforcement measures will focus on specific businesses tied to outbreaks instead of broad industry categories.