Judge Unblocks State Order on Bar Capacity Limits

Wisconsin rules were lifted after Tavern League sued
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 19, 2020 3:21 PM CDT
Judge Reimposes Wisconsin Bar Capacity Limits
In this May 13, 2020 photo, The Dairyland Brew Pub opens to patrons in Appleton, Wis.   (William Glasheen/The Post-Crescent via AP File)

A Wisconsin judge has reimposed an order from Gov. Tony Evers’ administration limiting the number of people who can gather in bars, restaurants, and other indoor venues to 25% of capacity. The capacity limits order was issued Oct. 6 by Andrea Palm, secretary of the state Department of Health Services, in the face of surging coronavirus cases in Wisconsin. A judge blocked the order on Oct. 14 after it was challenged by the Tavern League of Wisconsin, which argued it amounted to a "de facto closure" order for the bars and restaurants it represents. But Barron County Judge James Babler on Monday put the capacity limits back into effect.

The judge declined a request from the Tavern League, the powerful lobbying group for the state’s 5,000 bars, restaurants and taverns, to keep the capacity limit order on hold while the lawsuit is pending and declined to stay his ruling while the Tavern League and others appeal his decision, the AP reports. "This critically important ruling will help us prevent the spread of this virus by restoring limits on public gatherings," Evers said in a statement, while encouraging people to stay at home, limit gatherings, and wear a mask when in public. Wisconsin last week set new daily records for positive coronavirus cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. To date, the state has more than 173,000 positive cases and 1,600 deaths. (Wisconsin is opening a field hospital for COVID patients at the state fairgrounds.)

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