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Rocking R Bar is arguing that health orders requiring bars and restaurants to close by 10 p.m. are “unlawful” and “arbitrary” in response to a lawsuit filed by Gallatin County health officials.

Rocking R Bar is asking a Gallatin County judge to rule that the health order closing time is unconstitutional and unenforceable. The bar is also asking the judge to order the county pay its legal fees and any relief deemed appropriate.

The Gallatin City-County Board of Health and health officer Matt Kelley are the plaintiffs in the case filed in Gallatin County District Court last month. Rocking R Bar is the defendant.

The health board filed the lawsuit after a warning letter and after the bar remained open past 10 p.m. on several occasions. The county’s health board and Gov. Steve Bullock recently required bars to close at that time to try to slow the spread of the virus.

Since the lawsuit was filed, Gallatin County Judge John Brown denied the health board’s request for a temporary restraining order against the bar. He said that the request did not clearly show that the county will “suffer immediate and irrepressible” injury if the temporary restraining order was not issued.

A hearing over the matter is set for Tuesday.

In Rocking R Bar’s response, filed Wednesday by attorney Brian Gallik, the bar admitted it has remained open on several occasions past 10 p.m.

In the filing, Gallik said, the closing time doesn’t consider the economic impacts for those associated with the bar. He said the lawsuit interfered with the bar’s owner and employees’ abilities to get and keep a job.

County attorney Marty Lambert said the rules here allow businesses to continue doing business, unlike regulations in other parts of the country that are closing businesses completely. He said the county’s health orders are not capricious.

“It’s necessary to help prevent the spread of the virus,” Lambert said.

He said testimony he will present at Tuesday’s hearing will be “sufficient to overcome these legal objections made by the Rocking R Bar.”

A warning letter was issued to the bar on Nov. 19 to try to get the bar in compliance before the lawsuit was filed.

Rocking R Bar owner Mike Hope told police more than once that the bar was complying with other health orders and rules, court documents say. On Nov. 16, however, Hope told police that he was not going to obey the closing time and that he intended to stay open until 12:30 a.m.

Hope was part of a coronavirus state task force that advised Gov. Bullock on how to dole out $1.25 billion allocated to Montana in the CARES Act.

The Rocking R Bar received more than $71,000 of COVID-relief money as of late October. Bullock has made more of that aid available for businesses impacted by COVID-related shutdowns, with the contingency that the businesses follow the mandates.

As recent as Wednesday, Bozeman police have found that the Rocking R Bar continues to violate the closing time, according to police call logs.

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Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2630.