NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A business owner is suing the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee over their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by the shutting down of nonessential businesses, on the grounds that it violated “fundamental rights and civil liberties” afforded to citizens under the United States and Tennessee Constitutions.
The lawsuit filed by Geoffery Reid, owner of The Local Spot, Inc. which owns the bar and live music venue The Local lists Governor Bill Lee, Attorney General Herbert Slatery III, Nashville Mayor John Cooper, and Michael Caldwell, Chief Medical Director of Health for Metro Nashville-Davidson County as Defendants.
The lawsuit states that while the state and local governments are “unquestionably afforded” the right to address public health and safety issues related to COVID-19, they are not allowed to violate the “inalienable, natural rights of the people” under the state and national constitutions.
The lawsuit alleges that the Defendant’s plan to close all nonessential businesses across the state violated citizens’ constitutional and fundamental rights such as the right to travel, freedom of association, freedom of religion, right to be free from illegal seizure, property rights, economic rights, and other civil liberties. The actions of the government, according to the lawsuit, reportedly led to unemployment, as well as losses in net sales and production.
The lawsuit continues to state that the Defendants failed to protect the public under the law including “mandatory reporting by citizens who suspect they may have been infected, mandatory quarantining of those who have been infected, quarantining the susceptible segments of the population, monitoring those who have been quarantined, and pursuing contact tracing and testing to ameliorate the spread of the virus.”
Reid has owned The Local since 2017, and stated in the lawsuit that he was having a record year with revenue up 56% from the previous year before the Defendants ordered his business to close on March 16 and was unable to generate money through May 11. He said most of his revenue comes from live music events and not from pickup or delivery. He stated he continued to pay his employees despite being closed “as he felt a sense of responsibility.”
Reid said he applied for a loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Program but the funds were depleted before he could be approved. He said he was approved during the second round of funding but has not received any funding to date. His monetary losses during the shutdown exceed $200,000, the lawsuit alleges.
Reid said in the lawsuit that if he is not allowed to fully open as a live music venue and bar/restaurant in the near future, he will have to close permanently. Further, he said the government’s action will “cause irreparable harm” to his business and that the government “effectively functioned to seize and/or take The Local without any compensation” to him. Reid alleges pain and suffering, injuries, and damages caused by government orders.
Reid is seeking multiple declaratory judgments against the local and state governments, injunctive relief including a permanent injunction prohibiting state and local governments from depriving constitutional rights, temporary restraining order prohibiting state and local governments from enforcing any prohibition of live music, the right to file more temporary restraining orders against state and local governments for violations of constitutional and fundamental rights, legal fees, discretionary and court costs, as well as any other relief.
The lawsuit does not seek to stop the orders or directives from any government entity with regard to quarantining those with COVID-19; COVID-19 investigations; social distancing; wearing masks, gloves, or protective gear; sanitary guidelines or other methods for preventing the spread.
Read the full lawsuit below: