Following through on a meeting held last week, a group of local bar owners have filed a lawsuit in federal court to force the state to allow their establishments to open.

In a 23-page filing Wednesday in the U.S. Court for the Western District of Louisiana, owners of 11 establishments — more than half of them from New Iberia — asked the court to grant an injunction against Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana State Fire Marshal Butch Browning preventing them from forcing the bars to close.

Another copy of the same suit was filed Thursday in the Eastern District in New Orleans, representing bar owners from across the state, including bars in Jefferson, Terrebonne, St. Mary, Lafourche, Evangeline, St. Tammany and Lafayette parishes.

The lawsuits mirror similar suits filed in Colorado, Texas and Florida in recent days to prevent state officials from closing the businesses due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. The Louisiana filings come as the White House Coronavirus Task Force sent recommendations to Edwards earlier this week not only asking for the closure of bars but also additional restrictions on restaurants and personal service businesses where proper social distancing standards could not be properly maintained.

The Iberia Parish bars involved in the suit include Quarter Tavern, Bubba’s Saloon, Twisted Tavern, Emerald Billiards, Cantina’s and Napoleons. Three Youngsville bars — 501, SoCo Sports Bar and Dewey’s Lounge — also were listed as plaintiffs. The other two plaintiffs in the suit filed in Lafayette were My Place Bar and Grill of Lafayette and Pool Do’s Sports Bar of Morgan City.

In the lawsuit, the bar owners claim that no cases of COVID-19 have been traced back to their establishments. They also claim that of the 454 cases Edwards claims were traced to bars, 100 of those were from an outbreak at the Tigerland bars near the LSU campus.

The lawsuit cites several violations of the plaintiff’s right to due process as a result of the closure of their businesses and requested an expedited hearing of the petition.

Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at dwayne.fatherree@daily-iberian.com.

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