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Helbachs Coffee to close Middleton location following mask-free sign controversy

Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 7:27 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Helbachs Coffee has decided to close its Middleton location, after the business was launched into controversy for hanging a “Mask-Free Zone” sign as well as a legal battle with the public health department over not enforcing the mask mandate.

The owners of the coffeehouse posted to Instagram Thursday evening to announce the news. The post comes hours after Public Health Madison & Dane County decided to stay a hearing to determine if Helbachs’ license should 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 In response to PHMDC’s delay, Helbachs has withdrawn its motion for a temporary injunction to block the move.

In their post Friday, Helbachs said that they have lost their lease to their current location in Middleton, the shop’s last day being Aug. 31, 2020.

View this post on Instagram

Dear Customers: Helbachs Coffee has unfortunately lost its lease and will be closing its Middleton Location on August 31st, 2020.  This is due to the enforcement actions, negative public statements, and continued vindictive and hostile behavior towards Helbachs Coffee taken by Public Health Madison & Dane County.  Even though Public Health Madison & Dane County is walking back its accusations, the actions already threatened and taken by Public Health Madison & Dane County caused our Landlord to non-renew Helbachs Lease. We want to thank all of our loyal customers that stayed faithful through these challenging circumstances. More info is available on Helbachs GoFundMe Page. Sincerely,  Helbachs Coffee

A post shared by Helbachs (@helbachs) on

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, intended to seek revocation of their food and drink license for failing to comply with any provision of the Dane County Ordinances, otherwise known as Dane County’s mask mandate. The department had previously cited the business for not enforcing the mask order.

Helbachs, meanwhile, sued the City of Madison and Dane County, arguing that the mask order is unlawful and not in the public’s interest.

The suit comes after the coffeehouse hung a sign on their business that read “Mask-Free Zone” and asked employees and customers to not wear face masks inside the business.

In their social media post Friday, Helbachs wrote:

“This is due to the enforcement actions, negative public statements, and continued vindictive and hostile behavior towards Helbachs Coffee taken by Public Health Madison & Dane County. Even though Public Health Madison & Dane County is walking back its accusations, the actions already threatened and taken by Public Health Madison & Dane County caused our Landlord to non-renew Helbachs Lease.”

“We want to thank all of our loyal customers that stayed faithful through these challenging circumstances,” according to the post.

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