By Terri Jo Neff
The attorney for more than 100 bars and saloons across Arizona is declaring victory in a decision issued Wednesday by the Arizona Supreme Court that a recent executive order by Gov. Doug Ducey resolved a dispute about restrictions placed on some liquor license holders which shuttered many businesses for months.
The March 24 order dismissed an appeal filed by attorney Ilan Wurman on behalf of his clients who own Series 6 and Series 7 liquor licenses who alleged Ducey’s executive orders, specifically EO 2020-43 were unlawful. The lawsuit had also challenged operational guidelines issued Aug. 10 by the Arizona Department of Health Service (ADHS).
Most Series 6 & 7 licenses are used to operate smaller, family owned bars which were disproportionally impacted by Ducey’s executive orders last year. EO 2020-43 kept many closed while other liquor-serving establishments were allowed to remain open.
The supreme court’s order notes Ducey issued a EO 2021-05 on March 5, rescinding capacity or occupancy limits in place under a previous executive order. However, EO 2021-05 did not come right out and say all other executive orders related to operation of liquor-related businesses, such as EO 2020-43, were obsolete.
The supreme court took care of that, Wurman says, in its order finding that the bar owners’ appeal of a legal challenge against Ducey is now moot because EO 2021-05 will govern in the event of conflict with other executive orders and removes any distinctions between how Series 6 & 7 licensees and other businesses can operate.
According to Wurman, the supreme court’s order is “a huge win” for his clients.
“A case is moot if the Plaintiffs have obtained all the relief they seek,” he said. “The Court’s ruling is that the new EO (2021-05) rescinds any contrary guidelines that limit capacity. Further, they interpret it to prohibit discrimination against series 6s. Therefore, bars can now open and operate on the same terms as anyone else.”
As a result, Wurman is advising his clients that they can “open up 100 percent.”
“That is the only interpretation of the Supreme Court’s order that would actually render this case moot,” he said, adding that if Ducey, ADHS, or the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses & Control disagrees with how the Supreme Court evaluated EO 2021-05, “it is incumbent upon them promptly to issue new guidance clarifying what restrictions still apply specifically to bars.”