Lawsuit over city’s shutdown of business dismissed

Lawsuit over city’s shutdown of business dismissed
Jim Waide

A federal lawsuit filed by Golden Glow against the City of Columbus over its 2020 COVID-19 shutdown has been thrown out, but the salon has appealed.

Golden Glow tanning salon filed suit in the Northern District of Mississippi in May 2020. A city shutdown order forced it — among many other businesses — to close from 5 p.m. on March 21, 2020, until May 9, 2020, in an attempt to slow the initial spread of the virus.

The suit, filed by Tupelo-based attorney Jim Waide, argued that it was unfair for the salon to close while “churches, liquor stores and large retailers” remained open and that the city unlawfully deprived the salon of income during the period it was closed.

Waide also argued that the tanning salon was unfairly singled out. A list of essential and nonessential businesses put out by Gov. Tate Reeves did not specify tanning salons as being in either category. The City of Columbus, however, did specify that they were nonessential.

Judge Glen Davidson dismissed the salon’s suit on Nov. 9 with prejudice, meaning that it cannot be refiled.

Davidson found that the salon “speculates” about lost profits, but could not definitively prove the loss.

“There is no guarantee that (Golden Glow) would have generated income during a pandemic at a time in which any interpersonal contact was considered to be risky,” he wrote.

Davidson goes on to note that the closure “was a temporary measure designed to promote the common good and safeguard the public from a deadly disease” and that such orders were “in line with prior actions found to be constitutional.”

The city “articulated sound reasons” for considering tanning salons to be places that would spread the virus, Davidson reasoned.

Churches, liquor stores and big retailers “do not present the same health and safety concerns” as a salon, as well as “providing goods and services that have been deemed essential to public life in a way that ‘artificial tanning services’ are not.”

Waide told the Dispatch that he has appealed the decision.

“The district courts have dismissed similar cases, but there have been no court of appeals decisions on whether the shutdown orders were lawful,” he said. “Appeals courts have always said the issue is moot because the orders were lifted by the time the cases got to them, but this is not moot because we sued for damages.

“We think we have a good chance on appeal,” he said.

City Attorney Jeff Turnage said he was satisfied with Davidson’s decision.

“We are pleased with the decision and think the judge did the right thing,” he said. “It’s a well-reasoned decision and I think (Golden Glow) has an uphill battle on appeal. There is no fundamental right to get an artificial tan.”

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