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Helbach’s license revocation hearing on hold - for now

Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 6:12 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Helbach’s Coffee Roasters in Middleton that’s at the center of a controversy over face masks is getting a bit of a reprieve over potentially losing its food and beverage license.

Public Health Madison & Dane County confirmed with NBC15 that the agency has stayed the hearing to determine if the coffee shop’s license would be pulled because of its defiance of the county’s mask order. The stay will remain in effect until a federal lawsuit filed by the store is resolved.

In response to PHMDC’s delay, Helbach’s has withdrawn its motion for a temporary injunction to block the move.

According to a “Notice of intent to revoke license” issued to Helbachs on July 31, Janel Heinrich, the Public Health Officer for Madison and Dane County, intends to seek revocation of their food and drink license for failing to comply with any provision of the Dane County Ordinances.

Heinrich argues in the notice that starting July 13, Helbachs engaged in repeated violations of Emergency Order #8. Those violations included hanging the “Mask Free Zone” sign, and directing that masks should be removed upon entry to the business.

The notice continues that employees and customers were witnessed inside the coffee shop without masks on; that the manager of the shop said that he had no intention of complying with the mask order or hanging a masks-required sign on the business; and that when a customer entered the shop, they were asked to remove their mask by an employee.

The hearing had been set for August 25.

Helbachs posted this sign outside their Middleton coffee shop: "This is a Mask Free Zone....
Helbachs posted this sign outside their Middleton coffee shop: "This is a Mask Free Zone. Please remove mask before entering."(Jason Chance)

The federal case

Both sides will now await the resolution of the case Helbach’s filed in federal court against both the City of Madison and Dane County.

The lawsuit argues that posting the sign was protected free speech, it was only up for 30 minutes, and was not enforced, the Associated Press reports.

Helbachs also alleges that it was illegally singled out for enforcement; the county has no authority to require stores to post a sign saying masks are required; the coffee shop was denied equal protection under the law; and the order was an unconstitutional taking of property because its impact hurt the coffee shop’s business and led to an intent to revoke its license.

Local officials including Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County Janel Heinrich, Assistant City Attorney Marci Paulsen, and Public Health Services Supervisor Bonnie Koenig were also named in the suit.

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