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Restaurants & bars warned MPD, PHMDC will crack down on COVID-19 violations

In the face of triple-digit growth in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Dane County each day, county leaders and health officials are returning to greater restrictions on restaurants and bars as well as public gatherings.
In the face of triple-digit growth in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Dane County each day, county leaders and health officials are returning to greater restrictions on restaurants and bars as well as public gatherings.((MGN))
Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 9:04 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Dane County health officials are warning restaurants and bars that they and the Madison Police Department will begin enforcing the county’s COVID-19 restrictions and that enforcement will include fines and a possible loss of their liquor license.

In a letter to the businesses, Public Health Madison & Dane County described the move as “a last resort.” Up until now, health officials and law enforcement had focused on education over levying fines.

Explaining how the fines work, the agency demonstrated how they can quickly add up for a business. Because the relevant city ordinance allows for a penalty of $1,000 per violation, an establishment could receive a fine up to that amount for each person beyond the allowed limit.

Health officials gave an example of a business that had a normal capacity of 100 people. With the county’s current occupancy limit set at 25 percent, that means they are only allowed to have 25 people inside. Therefore, if officials discovered 100 people were there at any given time, the business could be fined up to $1,000 for each of the 75 people exceeding the reduced limit, or $75,000.

In the letter, PHMDC stated the majority of complaints it received so far fell into one of four categories:

  • Exceeding the 25% indoor capacity restrictions;
  • Employees not wearing face coverings or not wearing them properly;
  • Employees not physical distancing; and
  • Customers not physical distancing.

A spokesperson for PHMDC told NBC15 the agency received 160 complaints in August and 59 so far this month.

Health officials explained all of the rules are needed to slow the spread of COVID-19, adding, “(i)f you are choosing to be open for business, you must comply with the specific requirements contained in the Order.”

They reminded business owners that currently they are capped at a 25 percent capacity and taverns may only allow customers inside so they can order, pick-up or pay for their food, or while they are in transit. Other requirements for businesses are available here.

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