Group of businesses plan to sue Florida DBPR

Ban on bar beverage sales an arbitrary move, they say

OKEECHOBEE — Businesses affected by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s emergency order June 26 that cut off alcoholic beverage sales for consumption inside bars are suing the state for relief.

Okeechobee County bar owner Jeffrey Kennedy, who is planning a Fourth of July protest against the order, has joined at least several others in the lawsuit to be filed Travis R. Walker, PA, in Stuart, pro bono.

Walker was quoted by WPTV-Channel 5 News in West Palm Beach as saying: “We believe the shutdown is arbitrary and singles out bar owners in a discriminatory fashion. This is the kind of case we go to law school for, where the little guy is getting beat down.”

The plaintiffs’ main contention is that they’re being arbitrarily singled out. Walker said he does not believe there’s any evidence that bars spread the coronavirus more than other businesses that are now open.

“There are all of these different places people are congregating and not doing social distancing, yet the bars are the ones who are having to pay,” Walker said.

“We’re fighting back, and there’s more than a half-dozen of us,” said Kennedy.

He said that for his protest set for 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 4, “we’re following all the rules.”

Though Back to Butch’s Bar will be closed except for package sales to be consumed only outside the bar, they will not allow drinking in the parking lots or inside.

“What they can do is, we have picnic tables out back, and we can seat 10 people to a picnic table, limit of 10, 6 feet apart,” the owner said.

Boaters are welcome to moor in the canals to the rear, including the Rim Canal, but “we will have boat markers on the canals; they’re all marked off 50 feet apart,” he said. A fireworks display will conclude the gathering after dusk falls.

Kennedy fully expects Okeechobee County sheriff’s deputies to show up. “That’s perfectly all right. If I have to go to jail to make this statement, I’ll go to jail, but before it comes out in the paper (next Wednesday), I will have posted bond.

“We’ll be cooking burgers and hot dogs,” he said, and he does plan to speak.

“The protest starts at 6 o’clock,” Kennedy said. “Absolutely, I have a P.A. system, and we’ve got signs that we’re making for this. I’m very serious about this because this is my and my wife’s and my employees’ livelihood as a business owner.”

Attorney Walker planned to file the suit by the end of this workweek, but there was no word Friday whether he had as yet.

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