More than 70 Milwaukee businesses call on city officials to require face masks in public

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Fiserv Forum, Bartolotta Restaurants and Lowlands Group are among more than 70 businesses calling on Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council president Cavalier Johnson to require patrons and workers to wear face masks in public spaces. 

In a letter Tuesday, dozens of restaurant and business operators implored Barrett and Johnson to establish a city mandate that would require face masks to be worn in stores, theaters, museums, restaurants and bars to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In doing so, the city would join Illinois and about 20 other states that currently require face masks in public spaces. 

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The letter argues the measure is necessary for protecting workers and patrons, and to help customers feel safe about patronizing a business. 

“Without a city mandate, many customers will not be willing to come to our businesses,” the letter said. “Compliance with requirements a business may establish will be inconsistent at best. Our employees can’t be assured of a safe work environment. And the risk is much higher for new outbreaks, which could result in new stay-at-home orders that put us out of business for good.” 

The letter says the face mask mandate would prevent the kinds of outbreaks other communities have seen, such as Houston and cities in Florida.

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“These areas opened up without public masking policies and have seen spikes in cases and even regressions in reopening,” the letter said. “With Wisconsin seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, now is the time to act. Let’s have Milwaukee shine, and truly become an example for our state and the nation of how to do this safely.”

Co-signers of the letter include some of the city’s largest and prominent restaurant and entertainment venues, including Colectivo Coffee, Pabst Theater Group, Good City Brewing, Hospitality Democracy, Saz’s, Sherman Phoenix, Surg Restaurant Group, among many others. 

Milwaukee officials announced late last week that the city will move into phase 4 of its reopening plan on Wednesday, as restrictions continue to be slowly reduced from stay-at-home mandates put in place earlier this year. 

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In phase 4, bars and restaurants in the city will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity. In addition, bars and restaurants will be allowed to operate without a capacity limit with a COVID-19 safety plan approved by the city Health Department.

The city’s Health Department has strongly recommended the use of a mask or cloth face covering, but has not required them. Businesses are allowed to require masks as a policy to provide service.

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