Judge denies Tavern League’s request to block statewide limit on public gatherings

Outdoor dining along the Milwaukee RiverWalk.
Outdoor dining along the Milwaukee RiverWalk. Credit: Maredithe Meyer

Last updated on October 20th, 2020 at 01:37 pm

Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mandate limiting public gatherings was reinstated Monday morning after a Barron County judge ruled against the Tavern League‘s efforts to block the emergency order.

During a virtual court hearing, Judge James Babler denied the lobbying group’s request for a temporary injunction and lifted the temporary restraining order that a Sawyer County judge issued last week to block enforcement of the statewide order.

Evers’ order is now in effect through Nov. 6. It limits public gatherings to no more than 25% of a building’s total occupancy at any publicly accessible gathering area, such as stores, ticketed events, and bars and restaurants. The order doesn’t include outdoor areas, such as park shelters, outdoor dining areas and playgrounds.

The state’s Tavern League as well as other bar and restaurant owners have argued that restricting indoor capacity to 25% will severely hurt business during an already challenging time for the industry. Tavern League president Chris Marsicano echoed those sentiments in statement following the court decision.

“We are obviously disappointed in the ruling and the catastrophic effects it will continue to have on small businesses across Wisconsin. We will continue to operate observing the best practices of the WEDC to provide a safe environment for our employees and customers,” Marsicano said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tony Evers said the ruling is a step in the right direction when it comes to quelling the current COVID-19 case surge across the state.

“This critically important ruling will help us prevent the spread of this virus by restoring limits on public gatherings. This crisis is urgent. Wisconsinites, stay home. Limit travel and going to gatherings, and please wear a face covering whenever you have to go out,” said Evers in a statement. 

According to the state’s Department of Health Services, Wisconsin had the third highest rate of new cases and third highest total number of new cases in the nation during the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3.

On Oct. 16, there were 3,861 confirmed new COVID-19 cases, bringing the 7-day average of new daily cases to 3,052.

Soon after the Evers originally issued the order, the City of Milwaukee Health Department said it will continue to enforce its own Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely Order “as written.” After reviewing the city’s and the state’s orders, Milwaukee DHS determined that its local order was more restrictive than the state’s.  

Under that order’s current phase, all restaurants and bars are required to submit a “strenuous 80 point COVID checklist” to continue on-premise service at any capacity, and for some, depending on the business and safety plan, with no capacity limits at all. The checklist requires businesses to implement hygiene, cleaning, and protective measures, including proper social distancing and face masks.

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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