Administrative Court of Aachen: temporary business closure due to the coronavirus pandemic is lawful

Dr. Carlo Piltz

Facts of the case

The closure was based on a general order issued by the City of Würselen on 18 March 2020, under which the continued operation of certain retail points of sale was prohibited through 19 April 2020. The general order was issued in response to the continuing spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The general order was challenged in two petitions filed by a lottery retailer and a chocolate store.

Content of the decision

The Administrative Court of Aachen denied the petitions.

The court found that the City of Würselen had explained in comprehensible fashion in its general order that the measures it was taking are necessary to minimize risk and to protect groups of people who are especially vulnerable to coronavirus infections based on the current state of medical knowledge. Given the dynamic spread of the virus, with the first deaths recorded in recent weeks, the court ruled that the prohibition of non-essential events and businesses is a necessary measure.

The court noted that the prohibition applies to both the lotto retailer and the chocolate store, as neither can be classified as providers of basic services, so that these businesses are not necessary to secure the daily needs of the public. The Administrative Court of Aachen ruled that public health, as an object of legal protection, ultimately takes precedence over the risk that businesses will sustain financial losses. As grounds for this conclusion, the court cites the future financial aid which has been promised by the federal and state governments.

Conclusion

The decision illustrates that the public interest currently outweighs the interests of individuals, which are generally financial in nature, and not merely due to the need to protect life and health. Rather, the court assumes that financial aid from the federal and state governments will compensate businesses for their financial losses. But the scope and amount of this aid has yet to be conclusively clarified for every company. As a result, it will be interesting to see what consequences will result if companies receive compensation payments which they consider too low.  

[March 2020]