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SPRINGFIELD, IL — The owners of three Illinois businesses have filed suit against Gov. J.B. Pritzker over his response to the coronavirus pandemic, arguing his stay-at-home order overstepped his authority and violated the state's constitution. The small business owners are represented by the same attorney who last month filed suit on behalf of a pair of state representatives who objected to Pritzker's repeated unilateral extension of emergency orders restricting certain businesses and activities.
Peggy and Kevin Promenschenkel, owner of the biker bars Poopy's Pub & Grub in the northwestern Illinois town of Savanna and Dookie's Pub & Grub in the southern Illinois community of Carlyle, filed suit in Carroll and Clinton counties, respectively. Sonja Harrison, owner of the hair salon Visible Changes in downstate Louisville, filed her suit in the same Clay County courthouse where a judge found the governor's order should not apply to the state legislator who challenged it.
In all three cases — Poopy v. Pritzker, Dookie v. Pritzker and Harrison v. Pritzker — attorney Thomas DeVore argues on behalf of the business owners that the governor's emergency powers under the Illinois Emergency Management Act do not include forcing the closure of businesses without a court order. The suits also allege Pritzker's public health emergency declaration was improperly extended and ask his administration to follow procedures for public health closures laid out in the Illinois Department of Public Health Act.
Following the filing of lawsuits in state court last month by Illinois Republican lawmakers Rep. Darren Bailey, of Xenia, and Rep. John Cabello, of Machesney Park, seeking to limit his emergency powers, Pritzker, a Chicago Democrat, described the challenges as politically motivated stunts, irresponsible and potentially dangerous.
On Monday, the Illinois Supreme Court declined to weigh in on Bailey's case, which remains pending before Clay County Circuit Judge Michael McHaney.
Attorneys for Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who is representing the governor in the latest suits, filed paperwork in the three latest suits seeking to bypass state courts and pass the cases on to a federal judge.
Earlier in federal court, a northwest Illinois church also sued Pritzker, alleging the stay-at-home order violated constitutional protections for religious liberties. Following the suit, the Pritzker administration declared religious gatherings to be essential activities permitted under his emergency orders, subject to capacity limits and social distancing precautions.
In that case, U.S. District Judge John Lee declined to issue a restraining order stopping the state from enforcing the order. The federal judge found the restrictions passed constitutional muster and issued his May 3 ruling hours after Rev. Steve Cassell defied the order and went ahead with services that attracted dozens of people into the Lena church.
DeVore, the Greenville-based attorney representing those seeking judicial review of the order in state courts, told Capitol News Illinois that he is representing more than 100 business owners who have sought his help in being allowed to re-open.
Poopy's, the biker bar and restaurant near the Iowa border, was issued a cease-and-desist order after it allowed people to eat at outdoor picnic tables spaced 10 feet apart, according to the Northwest Herald. In response, management reportedly moved the picnic tables onto a nearby wooded area with the same ownership.