An Oklahoma County District Judge sided with bar owners on Friday, placing a temporary restraining order on Gov. Kevin Stitt’s executive order for bars and restaurants to close by 11 p.m. to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The restraining order is only for 12 days and is set to expire on Dec. 30, but local business owners in Norman say they hope it will hold.
Stephen Koranda, chair of the Downtowners Association of Norman, said he has seen and heard of local businesses losing money because of Stitt’s executive order.
“Let me put it this way — I have heard first hand from Campus Corner bars who had to turn away business after two OU games because of this lockdown,” Koranda said. “So, now if they’re able to serve after 11 p.m. to responsible people that are following the guidelines, then this is great for small business.”
If the restraining order is overturned in 12 days, Koranda said this would cause a loss of business for these small businesses who have been struggling during the pandemic.
“I don’t want to get into Facebook memes, but I don’t know that the coronavirus knows whether it’s 10:59 or 11:01,” he said. “So, if we’re able to serve a drink or a beer after 11 p.m. and if they want a beer or a drink after 11 p.m., let them have it.”
The latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report encourages state governments to implement restrictions on bars and restaurants.
“[States should] increase physical distancing through significant reduction in capacity or closure in public and private indoor spaces, including restaurants or bars,” the report reads.
Oklahoma state Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, said he believes the decision by the local judge is a win for small businesses.
“We have had enough shutdowns and mandates,” Standridge said. “These measures are causing the cure to be more destructive than the disease itself. It is time to let Oklahomans resume their lives... Lockdowns and mandates, like the governor’s [state building] mask mandate and lockdowns, are not allowing citizens to live their lives freely and are causing great economic damage to businesses and their employees, some of which will take decades to recover, if ever.”
As of Tuesday, 320,000 Americans and more than 2,000 Oklahomans have died from COVID-19.
In a statement released last week, Stitt said he is looking forward to fighting the restraining order in court.
“I am disappointed in today’s ruling, because my first priority as governor is to protect the health and lives of all Oklahomans,” Stitt said in the statement. “Many other states have closed bars completely and banned indoor dining while my executive order maintains the right balance between protecting public health and keeping businesses open safely. We look forward to making our case at the hearing on Dec. 30.”