Blue Line lawsuit over KCMO COVID-19 emergency order dismissed

The Blue Line Nighttime
Posted at 3:51 PM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 17:07:44-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City, Missouri, bar owner who filed a lawsuit against Mayor Quinton Lucas, Jackson County and County Executive Frank White Jr. over COVID-19 restrictions on businesses had his case dismissed earlier this month.

Steve Stegall, who operates the Blue Line in the River Market, sought a temporary restraining order, asserting that the emergency orders prohibited him operating safely and the 10 p.m. closing time negatively affected the bar's revenue.

Stegall, as the plaintiff in the case, "moved to voluntarily dismiss its cause of action against all defendants" in a March 29 court filing in Jackson County District Court.

Lucas and White both began issuing emergency orders in March 2020. Some of those orders restricted business hours, limited public gatherings and reduced occupancy limits to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“These unilateral, one-man orders violate the fundamental democratic norms established in our society, violate the cherished separation of powers doctrine established in our country these last 244 years, violate the Missouri non-delegation law and is in violation of the powers of the defendants Lucas and White,” court documents state.

KCMO and Jackson County amended their emergency orders as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, with changes in November that required restaurants and bars to close at 10 p.m.

“Restaurants such as Plaintiff’s have struggled through many of the orders and the COVID-19 epidemic in general with being asked to close entirely, to then being allowed to reopen through seating restrictions, causing loss of revenue to not only the business, but income to Plaintiff’s employees,” court documents stated.

Lucas previously told 41 Action News the cutoff time was based on public health experts seeing more young adults contract COVID-19 and was not about control.

“I'm a mayor; I want tax revenue,” he said. “It's not about shutting anything down. It's about keeping people safe and keeping people alive.”

The Blue Line “pays a premium” to the city and state for its liquor license, which allows the bar to operate until 3 a.m., according to court documents.

Since reopening amid the pandemic, The Blue Line has required masks unless patrons are actively eating or drinking and initiated temperature checks before anyone enters the establishment during high-traffic hours. It also has adhered to a 50% occupancy requirement.

The Blue Line, according to court documents, brings in 40% of its revenue between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Last month, O'Dowd's Gastrobar filed a similar suit against Lucas. The mayor's office said that lawsuit is "without merit."

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the Blue Line owner as Michael Gunter. Gunter is the attorney who represented The Blue Line, not the owner.