NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge in New Orleans has refused to block the state from closing bars amid the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman issued his ruling Monday afternoon, handing a defeat to 10 bar owners in southeast Louisiana. Even as his ruling was issued, a similar lawsuit in southwest Louisiana was being argued in Lafayette. Gov. John Bel Edwards issued the closure order last month. He was expected to testify in that hearing, where 11 bar owners were challenging the closure order.

At the heart of the arguments has been whether statistics support the closures of on-site consumption at bars while restaurants that contain bars are not closed.

Governor John Bel Edwards' Office released the following statement after the decision was handed down:

“I am pleased that Judge Feldman upheld bar restrictions, which is one of the critical mitigation measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana to protect and save lives. The evidence is clear that mask mandates and closing on-site consumption at bars work, and more than a month after implementing both measures in Louisiana the data shows they are working.”

 

"My orders are consistent with my authority and also with recommendations of public health experts and President Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, which puts Louisiana in the “red zone” for new cases and "yellow zone" for testing positivity rates and recommends bar closures as part of the strategy to slow the spread of this illness. We have already lost more than 4,400 Louisianans to this illness, and we must take every action we can to fight for the health of our state. I know these orders are hard on business owners, and I did not undertake them lightly. However, they offer the best shot for us to be able to open as much of our economy as possible while still keeping the ability to provide life-saving health care in our hospitals.”