Wisconsin judge blocks order from Gov. Tony Evers limiting bar and restaurant capacity as virus surges

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A Wisconsin judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked an order from Gov. Tony Evers’ administration limiting the number of people who can gather in bars, restaurants and other indoor places.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin sued on Tuesday. Sawyer County Circuit Judge John Yackel on Wednesday blocked the order and set a court date for Monday.

The Democratic governor’s order, issued last week, limited the number of customers in any indoor establishment to 25% of capacity.

The Tavern League argued that the order amounted to “defacto closure.”

"I don’t understand how they can survive," said Don Mattson, a former restaurant owner.

Don Mattson used to own a restaurant in Downtown Hudson and he knows just how hard it is to make it even without the challenges of COVID-19.

"A small business you got to be able to use full capacity," Mattson said.

"I have not been in a bar and I don’t think I would be comfortable going into a bar," said Kathy Breen who was shopping in Hudson on Wednesday.

Breen understands why these limits were put into place.

"The reason that we’re still wearing masks and numbers are still going up is because people have flocked into bars and restaurants," Breen said.


THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin has sued Gov. Tony Evers’ administration over new limits on bar and restaurant capacity.

The lawsuit by the powerful lobbying group, filed in Sawyer County on Tuesday, seeks to immediately block enforcement of Evers’ latest order capping customers to 25% of the establishment’s capacity limit.

The Tavern League said the order amounts to a “defacto closure.”

“My members are good people — they’re hard-working. They care about their community. They care about their employees,” Tavern League lobbyist Scott Stenger said. “They are seeing generations of their business wiped away.”

Plaintiffs include the statewide Tavern League, the Sawyer County Tavern League and the Flambeau Forest Inn in the village of Winter, the Journal Sentinel reported.

The lawsuit argues that the Flambeau Forest Inn would be forced to limit its capacity to 10 people under the state order, which would include five customers and five employees needed to operate the restaurant.

“This would be approximately 5% of Flambeau’s normal seating capacity. Flambeau could not operate profitably under these conditions and would be forced to discontinue its business operations,” the lawsuit said.

In response, the Democratic governor’s spokeswoman said the order “is consistent with the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year, and we continue to ask everyone to do their part to prevent the spread of this virus by staying home, limiting travel and gatherings, and wearing face coverings whenever in public.”

The state Department of Health Services on Tuesday reported 3,279 confirmed new coronavirus cases, breaking a record of 3,132 set just five days earlier. There were 34 deaths reported, also a new high, bringing the total number of people who have died to 1,508. To date, more than 155,000 people in Wisconsin have tested positive.

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