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Gallatin County lawsuit against Rocking R Bar goes to court

Posted at 11:22 AM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 13:22:59-05

BOZEMAN — 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.