Religious Liberty in Dickinson County

Date Filed:

October 9, 2020



United States District Court – Kansas


Case Status:

Closed. Business owners now have due process rights.

Peach Madl, owner of The Sandbar in Lawrence, Kansas

The Sandbar v. Lawrence-Douglas County Health Officer

This is a civil rights lawsuit seeking relief from a county-wide emergency order issued on October 1, 2020, by an unelected, politically unaccountable local health officer.

A Douglas County local health officer updated an emergency order requiring restaurants and bars with liquor licenses to stop serving alcohol at 11:00 pm and to close their doors at midnight – including outdoor seating – regardless of the establishment’s existing COVID-19 mitigation procedures and protocols.

The Order does not explain the justification for imposing a restaurant and bar curfew; does not explain why a bar with outdoor seating must stop commercial transactions at 11:00 p.m., but certain indoor restaurants are permitted to remain open; and does not explain why a bar is prohibited from offering curbside or off-premises delivery of alcoholic beverages at certain times.

Peach Madl partnered with the Kansas Justice Institute to file lawsuit against the Lawrence-Douglas County health officer for non-monetary relief. Peach is the longtime owner of The Sandbar, an iconic local establishment that has been serving Lawrence since 1989. Kansas Justice Institute claims this Order disregards Constitutional rights such as due process, and equal protection.

When a local health officer issues a COVID-19 order impacting a business, there should be some recourse for business owners. A meaningful hearing process does not exist within the current Order so The Sandbar has no other option than to file this lawsuit for non-monetary relief.

- Sam MacRoberts, Litigation Director of Kansas Justice Institute

The Sandbar in Lawrence, Kansas

What is the problem?

The latest health order in Douglas County forces businesses like The Sandbar to stop commercial activity at 11:00 p.m. and physically close at midnight, including its outdoor seating, but allows other businesses with indoor seating to remain open. The order prohibits to-go sales of alcohol after certain times but not to-go food sales. This bar and restaurant curfew is arbitrary, does not allow for due process hearings, and is causing significant hardship.

Multiple COVID-health orders have been challenged in courts around the country dealing with the arbitrary nature of the orders, the process by which they were issued, and the lack of constitutional rights to due process on behalf of those impacted.

Kansas Justice Institute believes that restaurant and bar owners in Douglas County are being denied their civil liberties.

COVID-19 is serious and requires careful consideration. When an unelected, unaccountable health officer creates a restaurant and bar curfew regime, business owners should be afforded a due process hearing.

- Sam MacRoberts, Litigation Director of Kansas Justice Institute