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Judge tosses Ahern Hotel’s lawsuit over COVID crowd limits

Updated August 14, 2021 - 12:00 pm

A Clark County judge on Friday tossed out a Las Vegas hotel’s lawsuit challenging emergency occupancy limits imposed statewide last year to stem the spread of COVID-19, ruling that with those restrictions now lifted the matter was moot.

The Ahern Hotel and Convention Center, cited and fined last year for multiple violations of the state limit on gatherings, filed suit last August against Gov. Steve Sisolak, the city and state, and the city’s director of planning, Robert Summerfield.

Besides ruling the matter moot, District Judge Nancy Allf on Friday also said Ahern failed to state an actionable claim because the state’s actions to stem the COVID-19 pandemic were reasonable.

“Today, the court recognized what we already knew — the state has a responsibility to protect the lives of Nevadans,” Attorney General Aaron Ford said in a statement on the ruling.

The hotel was cited last August and fined $250 by the city for violating an emergency directive that limited attendance at public gatherings and private events to 50 people. The limitation was imposed last year as the coronavirus took hold and spread statewide. The hotel had hosted an “Evangelicals for Trump” campaign event on Aug. 6, 2020, which drew roughly 550 people to its convention center.

The Trump event drew Sisolak’s ire, with the governor saying at the time he was “deeply disheartened and dismayed to see the callous and dangerous behavior” in violation of the gathering limit. The hotel, owned by Don Ahern, a prominent backer of GOP causes, maintained that it and other hotels should not be subject to the gathering limit.

Three days after the Trump gathering, the hotel hosted a second event, the Mrs. Nevada beauty pageant, which drew about 200 people. It was subsequently hit with an $11,000 fine by the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a total of four violations.

“These emergency directives are designed to keep Nevadans safe from a deadly virus while also balancing their rights as individuals,” Ford said in his statement, adding that the court “agreed that we struck the right balance with this directive.”

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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