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Lawsuits & Litigation

Restaurant Owners Sue Iowa Over COVID-19 Restrictions

— December 3, 2020

The owner of the Mudders tavern in Iowa is suing Governor Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health over the states COVID-19 restrictions on businesses.

In much of the country, the coronavirus pandemic is raging stronger than ever, prompting a new wave of lockdowns and restrictions on citizens and business owners from California to Maine. Unlike the first round of lockdowns in the spring, however, these latest lockdowns aren’t supported with federal stimulus money or enhanced unemployment benefits to help business owners and out of work citizens get through. As a result, some business owners are pushing back against governors and mayors attempting to keep their businesses shuttered for an unknown length of time. For example, a tavern owner in Dallas County, Iowa recently filed a lawsuit and is seeking class-action status over allegations that Gov. Kim Reynolds’ “pandemic-related restrictions on business activity are violating the Iowa Constitution.”

Gavel and law books; image by Succo, via
Gavel and law books; image by Succo, via

The suit was filed by attorneys at the Brick-Gentry law firm of Des Moines and the Gossett & Gossett law firm of Hollywood, Florida on behalf of Amy Culp, the owner of the Mudders tavern and any other Iowan going through a similar situation. The suit names Governor Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health as defendants.

According to the suit, Reynolds declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic and issued “more than 20 proclamations restricting various businesses from operating in Iowa” as a result. Those proclamations, including the ones keeping restaurants like Mudders tavern shuttered, violate provisions of the Iowa Constitution, according to the suit. Under the state constitution, “men and women have the right of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.” The suit argues Reynolds’ decrees “violate Culp’s right to due process and equal protection, and that the state’s failure to provide business owners with notice of the orders is patently unreasonable.”

Because there is an untold number of business owners going through similar situations as Culp, the suit is seeking class-action status. In fact, Culp’s attorneys claim the “potential number of plaintiffs in the case are numerous and there is a question of law common to the entire class.”  

It’s important to note that, according to state records, Mudders received a $10,000 grant via the Iowa Business Disruption Relief program. The program is designed to offer financial assistant to taverns like Mudders, along with “breweries, pubs, distilleries and other similar establishments that have been adversely affected by the pandemic.”

Since the start of the pandemic, it’s estimated that more than 223,000 people throughout Iowa have contracted the virus and around 2,300 have perished.


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