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Tavern League calls new restrictions on bars and restaurants “unlawful”

At restaurants, the restriction (Emergency Order #7) brings indoor dining capacity down from 50 percent to 25 percent. Bars can no longer allow indoor dining, only takeout and outdoor seating with physical distancing.
At restaurants, the restriction (Emergency Order #7) brings indoor dining capacity down from 50 percent to 25 percent. Bars can no longer allow indoor dining, only takeout and outdoor seating with physical distancing.((WMTV/Michelle Baik))
Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 10:42 PM CDT
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MIDDLETON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Tavern League of Wisconsin is calling restrictions on bars and restaurants “unlawful,” after public health officials announced a new emergency order Wednesday to slow the spread of coronavirus.

At restaurants, the restriction (Emergency Order #7) brings indoor dining capacity down from 50 percent to 25 percent. Bars can no longer allow indoor dining, only takeout and outdoor seating with physical distancing.

Janel Heinrich, the director of Public Health Madison & Dane County, said that the county has experienced a high number of cases recently. She also said that contact tracers found much of the spread has come from public gatherings, restaurants and bars.

In response, Chris Marsicano, the president of the Tavern League of Wisconsin, wrote:

“Today’s order by Public Health Madison and Dane County shutting down taverns is in direct conflict with the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, Wisconsin Legislature vs. Palm. A local government cannot have more authority than the state Department of Health. The Dane County Order blatantly ignores the Supreme Court decision and should be amended to comply with the Supreme Court decision.

Dane County tavern owners have had their businesses closed/restricted for over 100 days. These unlawful orders are causing irreparable financial harm to their small businesses, families and employees while other businesses continue to operate in the county.

With increased testing comes increased cases that should not come as a surprise. Like other businesses in the county our members provide a safe and responsible environment for their customers and employees. While county officials are quick to blame the industry, they conveniently ignore the historic protests the city has experienced over the last 3 weeks in which thousands of people congregated with no regard to social distancing.”

Last week, Jeffrey Pothof, the chief quality officer at UW Health, told NBC15: “It is clear that the spike that we’re seeing right now is not related solely to an increase in number of tests available. What we think is the primary driver is our behaviors and our decisions that we’re making. That’s unfortunate.”

Joel Egan, the owner of Mid Town Pub, said that he’ll go by the rules, adding he feels lucky to have the outdoor seating to accommodate for more guests, an option that not all bar owners have.

“When you put your license in something like this, it’s not easy to say, ‘Sure, I’d like to go along with it.’ I do feel sorry for a lot of those owners, I know how hard this business is,” Egan said.

Emergency Order #7 goes into effect Thursday at 8 a.m.

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