Former owner of Providence wine shop suing Gov. Kay Ivey

Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 10:43 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - It has been close to two years since Governor Kay Ivey issued public health orders, prohibiting customers from eating or drinking at restaurants and bars.

She says the governor's public health orders forced her out of business.
She says the governor's public health orders forced her out of business.(WAFF)

It was that action that a former Providence business owner in Huntsville says pushed her out of business. Now a nonprofit is representing her in a lawsuit against Governor Ivey and Dr. Scott Harris.

We went to Uncorked Wine Shop in Providence in January of 2020 to find customers and lights on. But, just two months later everything changed.

March 19, 2020, Governor Ivey issued a public health order where business owners could not serve food or beverages to customers in person, they had to offer curbside services only, a decision Saranne Riccio’s attorney says put her out of business.

“She lost a total of over $56,000 due to these lockdowns and orders so she was narrowly able to avoid bankruptcy but if we can do what we can to make her whole again and to give her some of her life back before the covid orders hit, that would be fantastic,” Matthew Clark said.

Matthew Clark is an attorney and president of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty. The nonprofit filed a lawsuit on Riccio’s behalf against Governor Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

“The executive branch ran the entire state by itself, pretty much for an entire year, without any input from any representatives. Granted, COVID was a major problem. But even when major problems occur, I think that’s all the more reason why peoples’ representatives have to have input,” Clark said.

Clark says Governor Ivey backed up her orders with the Alabama Emergency Act. However, he says the act allows the governor to execute laws, not make them.

“The legislature can give the executive branch some discretion on how to execute the law, that’s fine. But what it cannot do is give the executive branch to make the law,” he explained.

He also says Dr. Harris also was overstepping, adding he has the authority to shut down individual businesses for health violations.

“You go to a specific place, you inspect it, you find specific problems and you order a specific remedy. The state health officer can do that. That is very different from ordering the entire state to fall in line with an order where you’ve never done any inspection, it exceeds what the statute allows,” he said.

To be clear - Saranne Riccio managed to keep the doors of Uncorked open through December 2021. Her attorney says she was able to get a PPP loan, but after paying her employees there was nothing left over.

WAFF reached out to the Attorney General’s office which would represent the Governor and the Health Officer in legal matters.

A spokesperson told us they have no comment.

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