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Bar owner in Louisiana successfully fights back against ATC for suspending license during pandemic



LOUISIANA – A Catahoula bar owner went head-to-head with the state office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control after they revoked the bar’s license for not complying with coronavirus guidelines.

On Wednesday the bar owner won her fight after a month-long battle.

“This is a landmark. It’s been in the community for 68 years,” owner Liz Higginbotham Breaux said.

In December, the ATC put her bar, Red’s Levee Bar, under fire.

The ATC suspended the bar’s license after walking in and seeing half a dozen people inside.

The ATC said no one was supposed to be socializing inside bars. The bar owner said that’s not what was happening, however, and she fought the suspension.

“I’m really not sure why they targeted me. It might’ve been a complaint or just a drive by and saw some activity,” she said.

On December 3, the ATC told Higginbotham Breaux she wasn’t following the state’s coronavirus guidelines to serve her customers outside. They issued her a warning.

Six days later, ATC officials came back. This time, they suspended the bar’s license.

“We were all sitting outside. It was a bunch of friends. I say a bunch, but there were six of us. We ended up coming in right at dark because that day it was warm, and the mosquitoes were bad,” she said. “We came in, and I’d say maybe ten minutes later the ATC showed up and said, ‘We are going to pull your license because you’re violating by serving beer inside.’”

Higginbotham Breaux fought back and filed an injunction to keep her bar open.

On December 28, a judge overruled the injunction, however, and closed Red’s Levee Bar once again.

After being forced to stay closed for over two weeks, the owner met with the ATC commissioner for a hearing.

“Today I went to reinstate my license, and I came to agreement with the ATC commissioner, which will allow me to reopen in seven days with conditions,” Higginbotham Breaux told News Ten.

Those conditions are that Red’s Levee Bar must serve people outside.

Anyone drinking at the bar can only be let inside to use the restrooms.

Customers may also go inside to play video poker, but the number of people allowed to play at once is limited.

Higginbotham Breaux also filed a lawsuit against Governor John Bel Edwards after the ATC suspended her bar’s license.