Since the pandemic began a year ago, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has used his emergency powers to unilaterally enact COVID-19-related policies. In February, the legislature overwhelmingly voted to rein in his authority, passing three bills to limit the governor’s use of pandemic-related emergency orders. Gov. Beshear immediately filed suit, claiming these new laws unconstitutionally interfere with his broad emergency authority.
While the governor attempts to ignore the constitutional separation of powers, local businessowners are paying the price, struggling to keep up with the ever–changing restrictions impacting their financial livelihoods. Several local breweries and restaurants are now challenging the governor’s enforcement of COVID-related orders which under the new legislation have expired.
Nearly a year into the pandemic, the Kentucky General Assembly became fed up with Governor Andy Beshear’s unending, often arbitrary, use of emergency powers to combat COVID-19. Governors have a legitimate role to address emergencies when quick action is needed, but their authority to create rules cannot be indefinite. At some point, legislators, as representatives of the people, must exercise their constitutional role as the policy-making branch of government to consider and, when necessary, amend the government’s emergency powers policies—particularly when one branch of government claims virtually unreviewable and unending authority over people’s livelihoods.
That’s exactly what the Kentucky’ General Assembly did when it placed limits on the governor’s emergency powers. Under the new legislation, emergency orders can last only 30 days, after which the legislature must be consulted. And substantially similar orders cannot be imposed again.
While the governor and legislature litigate this in court, local restaurants continue to suffer under continually changing and uncertain rules.
Trindy’s, a restaurant and bar in Georgetown, Kentucky, has the capacity to seat 60 guests, 11 of those seats being at the bar. Since the current version of the governor’s orders forbid customers from sitting at the bar and limits restaurant capacity to 60 percent, Mindy Tindle, the owner, has been worried about the future of her business.
Mindy is just one of several local businessowners who fear for the fate of their companies. Ted Mitzlaff, who runs Goodwood Brewing Company, which has three locations across the state, has found himself in a similar situation.
With the governor’s emergency orders constantly changing, many small businesses are never entirely sure if they are in full compliance with the law. And arbitrary enforcement of these regulations has become a problem, creating a looming threat of complete shutdown if a business is caught violating orders, regulations, mandates, and directives they didn’t even know existed.
During these times of economic uncertainty, local restaurants should not be forced to operate in a constant state of panic, worried that they could be fined or shutdown at a moment’s notice.
Trindy’s, Goodwood Brewing Company, and Dundee Tavern, owned by Alan Hincks, are challenging the governor’s continued application of emergency orders which should have expired. All three businesses are represented by Pacific Legal Foundation free of charge.