Lawsuit against Adelup shutdown of bars dismissed in federal court

Several bar owners on Guam staged a silent protest, putting their bar stools out in front of their establishments to portray their lack of business. (PNC file photo)

Thomas Peinhopf, the bar owner who sued Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and the Department of Public Health for allegedly violating his constitutional rights during the COVID-19 lockdown, has lost his case in the District Court of Guam.

District Court Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood ruled that the governor had the right to initiate the lockdown in order to protect the people of Guam.

Peinhopf, in his lawsuit, had argued that the various executive orders and guidance memos issued by the governor and Public Health due to the COVID-19 pandemic violated the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the Substantive and Procedural Due Process Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause.

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The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment states that “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Peinhopf’s bars, as well as other bars on the island, were forced to shut down following the COVID-19 restrictions ordered by the governor.

Peinhopf, the owner of the Livehouse bar in Tumon and the Shady Lady bar in Harmon Loop, had sought monetary damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.

But in her ruling, Judge Tydingco-Gatewood pointed out that the bar-and-tavern closure was not permanent and that as of February 2021, bars and taverns were allowed to operate again.

In addition, the judge said that the executive orders and guidance memos of the administration were aimed at flattening the curve, slowing the spread of COVID-19, and preventing the health care system from becoming overwhelmed.

“Plaintiff’s takings claim is no different from the long line of cases that were dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,” Tydingco-Gatewood stated.

Moreover, the judge noted that while the right to work or earn a livelihood is protected, it is not a fundamental right.

“The Ninth Circuit, in addressing due process claims by business owners aggrieved by the COVID-19 shutdown, noted that it had never held that the right to pursue work is a fundamental right,” the ruling stated.

For the foregoing reasons, the judge ruled that the defendants’ motion to dismiss is granted and Peinhopf’s lawsuit dismissed with prejudice.