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Judge rules against Rocking R Bar in suit brought by Gallatin County

Posted at 8:47 AM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 08:35:26-05

(Updated 11:50 a.m. MDT, 12/16/2020)

UPDATE: Gallatin County District Court Judge Rienne McElyea ruled on Wednesday against the Rocking R Bar, the defendant in a suit brought by the Gallatin County Attorney's Office and the Gallatin City-County Health Department.

The ruling means the Rocking R Bar must follow a county ordinance requiring it to close at 10 p.m.

The preliminary injunction granted by the judge will be in effect until March. The Rocking R Bar could face further legal action if it continues to disregard the 10 p.m. curfew.

(first report)

The Gallatin City-County Health Department and the County Attorney argued their case on Tuesday in a lawsuit filed against Bozeman’s Rocking R Bar.

The hearing was the first time the lawsuit made its way to court since being filed and was heard by Judge Rienne McElyea in Gallatin County District Court.

The health department and County Attorney Marty Lambert are asking the court to enforce county health orders that require bars to close at 10 p.m.

The suit claims the R Bar has stayed open past the curfew on several occasions.

Lambert called a total of four witnesses on Tuesday to testify about the virus and how local orders are believed to slow down spreading; Health Officer Matt Kelley and MSU Professor, Dr. Raina Plowright, were among those who testified.

Kelley testified about the authority given to the Board of Health to take measures to protect the public from spread of communicable disease, including closing buildings when necessary.

Mike Hope, owner of the Rocking R Bar, took the stand last to testify why he’s stayed open past the curfew, which he said is because of economic reasons.

“Most people laid people off. We kept paying them, and the PPP did not cover the costs of our payrolls,” Hope said. “They were concerned with how they were going to pay their rent. How they are going to pay their tuition — I’m proud to say we made a commitment to pay them.”

The trial will resume Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.