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Bar and restaurant owners sue governor and city

Local bars owners are taking their grievances to court.

Some Monongalia County business owners impacted by Gov. Jim Justice’s executive orders and Morgantown ordinances targeting bars and restaurants filed a federal lawsuit.

The businesses are seeking compensatory damages to “make the plaintiffs whole for their injuries and losses,” attorneys’ fees, costs, pre-and-post-judgment interest and other favorable relief, including initiation of reverse condemnation proceedings as the court deems “just and appropriate.”

The plaintiffs are: owners of Whisper Night Club and Lounge, Fat Daddy’s, Almost Heaven Bar & Grill, Baby Squirrels Saloon, Big Times, Crab Shack Caribba, Dockside Grille, Joe Mama’s, Mountain Mamas Hot Tavern, The Annex, 4th & Goal, Scorers, Extensive Enterprises, SAR Tech LLC and SHC LLC.

The suit names Justice, the City of Morgantown, interim Morgantown City Manager Emily Muzzarelli and Frederic Wooton, commissioner of the state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration, as defendants.

The inability to contest the executive orders, and the limitations they brought, have caused a “significant diminution” in the ongoing value of the businesses of the plaintiffs, according to the suit.

The executive orders also lacked any process for review, which is a core element of the right to due process and that denial of due process is a violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, the suit says.

The bars and restaurants were also denied equal protection under the constitution because of the “imposition of specific limits on the operations of bars and restaurants in Monongalia County, in distinction to the operation of other businesses and other activities in Monongalia County, and outside of Monongalia County.”

The suit also argues that the executive orders count as the unjust taking of property without compensation in violation of the constitution.

Spokespeople for Morgantown and the ACBA did not want to comment on pending litigation. Additionally, Muzzrelli and Morgantown had not been served with the lawsuit to the spokesperson’s knowledge as of 2:20 p.m. on Tuesday.

The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment in time for this report.

The suit was filed in the Northern District of West Virginia on Monday. Martin Sheehan, a Wheeling-based attorney, is representing the businesses.

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