Judge Suspends Earlier Last Call

'Member when this was safe? We 'member. Stock photo from Pexels.

A Superior Court judge issued an order Friday restraining Athens-Clarke County from enforcing its new, earlier last call for alcohol until a hearing next week.

The emergency ordinance the ACC Commission passed Thursday moving last call from 2 a.m. to 10 p.m. was set to take effect Friday night.

Lawyer Mo Wiltshire filed a lawsuit Friday morning on behalf of six local bars—On the Rocks, Buddha Bar, Cloud, Moonshine Bar, Infusia and Centro—arguing that the ordinance violates Gov. Brian Kemp’s emergency order on coronavirus restrictions. Kemp’s order prohibits local governments from enacting stricter regulations than the state.

Judge Eric Norris granted Wiltshire’s request for a temporary restraining order, the Athens Banner-Herald reported. A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 6.

The commission moved up last call amid reports of students packing late at night into crowded downtown bars, which are known to be “superspreader” environments where dozens of people can become infected with COVID-19 in one evening. Commissioners said they were concerned about what would happen when more students begin moving back to town in August.

“By all epidemiological standards, this whole state should be shut back down and quarantined again,” Commissioner Melissa Link said. “The science is crystal clear that bars are super-spreader environments, primarily because people do gather closely face-to-face, and their inhibitions are down. Alcohol does not give you COVID, but it leads to behavior that can give you COVID.”

Cities and states throughout the nation have put restrictions on bars or closed them entirely to slow the spread of coronavirus.