Golden Glow Tanning Salon in Columbus has filed suit in federal court against the City of Columbus over the city’s COVID-19 closure order.
Golden Glow, owned by Steve Pyle, is represented by Jim Waide of Tupelo. The suit was filed in the Northern District of Mississippi on May 20. Pyle is arguing that the ordinance was unconstitutional, that his business did not present increased risk of infection with the coronavirus, and that he suffered financial damage by the closure, among other things.
According to the complaint, which is one side of a legal argument, Golden Glow argues that, while Governor Tate Reeves’ orders to close businesses did not specific tanning salons, the city’s did.
When the city declared an emergency on March 21, there had been no shut-down order from the state level. The mayor and city council held a Saturday special meeting and declared a state of emergency, as well as passing an ordinance closing many businesses. The ordinance read, in part:
“Because of the likelihood of close person-to-person contact, which increases dramatically the likelihood of the spread of infectious disease, effective at 5:00 p.m. on March 21, 2020, and continuing until further action of the Mayor and Council of the City of Columbus, all bars, nightclubs, meetings of fraternal and civic organizations, child care facilities, bowling alleys, recreational facilities, skating rinks, tattoo parlors, gyms, barbershops, hair/beauty and nail and tanning salons, spas, convention centers, community centers, and parks shall be closed for business. This Section also applies to municipally owned convention spaces, community centers and parks and persons who have rented municipally owned facilities shall be entitled to a full refund of any rental sums and deposits paid.”
The ordinance also set a fine of $1,000 for violations.
Neither Reeves’ Executive Order 1466, issued on April 1, or 1477, issued on April 24, specifically said that tanning salons should close. Order 1477 said “fitness and exercise gyms, dance studios, clubs, tattoo parlors, spas, salons, barber shops, and all other personal care and personal grooming facilities shall remain closed….”
Golden Glow argues that the ordinance “is without factual basis when applied to the tanning business. A tanning business does not ‘increase dramatically the likelihood of the spread of infectious disease.’ There is no increased ‘likelihood of close person-to-person contact’ with respect to tanning business. To the contrary, there is a diminished unlikelihood of any person-to-person contact because each customer tans in an individual tanning booth.”
According to the complaint, Reeves issued Executive Order 1480 on May 8. It allowed “personal care and grooming facilities” to reopen, but with a list of strict regulations. On May 9, the city allowed businesses previously called “nonessential” to be reopened “subject to intensive regulation.”
The lawsuit is alleging that the city ordinance closing Golden Glow amounted to “taking” Pyle’s business for public use without paying just compensation, and that Pyle “suffered a permanent loss of…income” and will suffer a future loss of income because the city “creates the false perception in the public that the tanning business is an unusually dangerous business, since it was one of the few businesses closed for public safety.”
According to the complaint, the tanning business should not have been affected by the shutdown order. Pyle argues that other cities allowed tanning salons to operate; that tanning beds involve less contact between people than other businesses that were allowed to remain open; the beds are always sanitized; many people with medical conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, arthritis and other skin conditions, use tanning beds.
The complaint also states that the president stated that heat and ultraviolet radiation kill the virus, and that Reeves said on Facebook that “there is no such thing as an inessential business.”
Pyle argues that he should have been given an opportunity to challenge the idea that the tanning business “increased dramatically the spread of infectious disease” at a hearing. The fact that he could not do so violates his right to due process, he argues.
The lawsuit asks for actual damages, attorney’s fees, an injunction preventing the city from closing the business in the future without compensation and without an opportunity to be heard, and that the city’s emergency ordinance is unconstitutional.