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Montana AG orders Gallatin Co. to drop lawsuit against Rocking R Bar

Rocking R Bar
Posted at 1:53 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 12:31:13-05

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen on Thursday exercised his supervisory powers in the 'Gallatin City-County Board of Health and Health Officer Matt Kelley v. Rocking R Bar' case.

Knudsen directed Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert to dismiss the case against the Bozeman business that had refused to adhere to the mandate that businesses close at 10:00 p.m.

"The ten o’clock closure rule defies commonsense. This type of government overreach is devastating to Montana workers and small businesses," Knudsen said in a news release.

"Our action today is a clear message that we need to safely reopen our economy and will not allow overzealous local governments to hold Montana businesses and their employees hostage.”

"This announcement will give stability and certainty to Montana businesses. They will no longer have to fear prosecution for simply serving their customers," said John Iverson of the Montana Tavern Association.

Here is the full text of Knudsen's letter:

Dear County Attorney Lambert:

Pursuant to M.C.A. § 2-15-501(5), it is the duty of the Attorney General “to exercise supervisory powers over county attorneys in all matters pertaining to the duties of their offices.” Consistent with this authority, I hereby exercise my supervisory powers with respect to the case entitled Gallatin City-County Board of Health and Health Officer Matt Kelley v. Rocking R Bar, Gallatin County Cause No. DV-20-1278B.

At your earliest convenience, but no later than 12:00 p.m. on January 15, 2021, I order and direct you to dismiss the above-entitled action in accordance with Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(ii) of the Montana Rules of Civil Procedure. Procedurally, the dismissal of the action eliminates any sufficient grounds for the preliminary injunction issued on December 18, 2020. For that reason, I further direct you to coordinate with the defendant to ensure that it may file—simultaneously with or before the filing of the stipulated notice of dismissal—an application to dissolve the preliminary injunction, along with a supporting affidavit, as required by M.C.A. § 27-19-401.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.
- Austin KnudsenAttorney General of Montana

On November 28th, the Gallatin County Attorney’s Office said it was taking legal action against the Rocking R Bar due to the bar's alleged refusal to adhere to local and state health orders. “The Rocking R Bar is also in violation of the governor’s directive regarding the 10 p.m. closing time, that’s what we’re talking about,” explained Lambert at the time.

“Bozeman police have checked numerous bars in Bozeman. The investigative efforts here have not just been focused on the Rocking R Bar. They’ve checked a number of bars every night. The Rocking R Bar in the town of Bozeman, the Rocking R is the only one not closing at 10 p.m.,” Lambert said.

Governor Greg Gianforte issued a directive Wednesday removing operational hour restrictions on Montana businesses. Click here for details.