Judge Brian Abels' courtroom in Livingston Parish was reserved for the entire day Tuesday, Sept. 1. In fact, it was reserved on Wednesday, just in case.
On the docket? Firehouse BBQ versus the State of Louisiana and Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) over Gov. John Bel Edwards' mask mandate. Firehouse BBQ was docked twice by LDH for not enforcing the mask mandate, and the restaurant said they will not force customers or employees to don face coverings.
However, proceedings lasted but an hour as state counsel Matthew Block made opening arguments that the case was outside of jurisdiction in the 21st Judicial District Court (which encompasses Livingston, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa.) Block argued that cases which involve the state are to be heard
Judge Abels disagreed, stating he was well within his jurisdiction to hear the case since Firehouse BBQ resides in Livingston Parish.
However, after discussion, all parties agreed that Block would be given until Sept. 11 to submit a writ of clarification to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal, seeking clarification on the matter.
The court was then adjourned.
Judge Abels signed a temporary restraining order prohibiting Edwards and other state officials from “taking any further action” against Firehouse BBQ until a hearing that was pushed to Tuesday, Sep. 1. The restraining orders will remain in place.
Attorney General Jeff Landry has filed a brief in support of the Livingston Parish restaurant, which is currently in the midst of a legal battle against Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Health regarding enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions.
Firehouse BBQ, a Denham Springs eatery owned by Danielle Bunch, had its food permit pulled late in August when health inspectors docked the restaurant for tables not being spaced appropriately and employees and customers not wearing face masks.
The restaurant has remained in operation, and Bunch has repeatedly said via social media that she will not comply with the “illegal mandate.”
In a filing the first week of August, Bunch’s lawyer said she informed the Health Department inspector that her employees had various medical issues that prevented them from being able to wear a face mask while working, one of the exceptions to Edwards’ mask mandate.