Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Pima County’s mandatory 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew has been temporarily halted after a group of Tucson bars were granted a preliminary injunction barring the county from enforcing the curfew.
Owners of Cobra Arcade Bar, HighWire Lounge and The Maverick filed a joint lawsuit on Jan. 5 contending the county overextended their legal authority to mandate a curfew.
The owner of The Maverick, Grant Krueger, included other Tucson restaurants he owns in the lawsuit: Union Public House, Reforma Modern Mexican and Proof Artisanal Pizza & Pasta.
After considering the evidence at a Jan. 15 hearing, Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson ordered Pima County to cease enforcing the curfew in a ruling filed Jan. 19.
“The Court finds the hardships imposed on the Plaintiffs by the curfew are severe. Additionally, the hardships are arguably unfair because the Court finds Plaintiffs can adhere to the ADHS required safety measures both before and after 10 p.m.,” Johnson wrote in the ruling, echoing the defendant’s arguments. “Moreover, the virus is spread just as easily late at night as it is during the day. Bar patrons can drink excessively during the day just as easily as they can at night.”
While the judge acknowledged the challenges Pima County has managing the COVID-19 pandemic, she held the parties’ legal arguments tipped in the restaurant owners’ favor.
“The County could not demonstrate in testimony or other evidence that more cases are contracted after 10 p.m. Nor has it demonstrated specifically that its current hardships are worsened by people and businesses engaging in conduct after 10 p.m.,” Johnson wrote of the county’s defense. “To the contrary, the burden the County faces in managing this pandemic will continue until the pandemic is under control. The County has simply failed to demonstrate how the curfew not being enforced would cause it additional hardship.”
Pima County County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia said the 10 p.m. curfew was based on evidence gathered when the county sent 46 inspectors to observe nearly 400 establishments for compliance to the curfew and found 15% of them didn’t comply.
“We have to draw a line in the sand in terms of when you would ask a business like a bar or a restaurant to stop operating. That line in the sand needs to not be entirely arbitrary,” Garcia said. “We know that, based on the surveillance that our county inspection team did, that bars that were operating after 10 o'clock, that there was a substantial amount of non-compliance with the kinds of measures that we've recommended all along. So yes, 10 may seem like a rather odd and very specific time to select, but this is based on actually our observations of what people are doing in those kinds of establishments.”