Judge rules Gov. Evers’ bar, restaurant capacity order back in place

Sophia Voight, Co-News Editor

Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide restriction on public gatherings to 25% of a building’s capacity is back in place following a northern Wisconsin judge’s ruling Monday.

Barron County Circuit Court Judge James Babler ruled against the Tavern League of Wisconsin and lifted the temporary restraining order that blocked the emergency order.

Babler also denied the Tavern League a temporary injunction to block the order’s restrictions while the lawsuit is pending.

The Tavern League filed a lawsuit Oct. 13 to strike down the Evers administration’s emergency order that affects bars’ and restaurants’ capacity.

On Oct. 14, Sawyer County Judge John Yackel temporarily blocked the statewide bar and restaurant capacity rule.

The Evers administration issued the emergency order Oct. 6 limiting public gatherings to combat the “deadly, uncontrolled and exponentially growing spike in cases of COVID-19” in Wisconsin.

The order took effect on Oct. 8 and is scheduled to remain in place until Nov. 6.

Babler reversed the block Monday after the Wisconsin Department of Justice, defending the Evers administration, asked to substitute a judge.

The case then moved from Yackel’s courtroom to Bayfield County Judge John Anderson where the Tavern League’s lawyers made their own request for a substitute judge, moving the lawsuit to Barron County.

The current ruling can still be appealed, but the Tavern League has not mentioned any plans to appeal the decision.
Tavern League of Wisconsin President Chris Marsicano said in a statement released after the ruling that he was disappointed in the decision, but Tavern League members will continue to provide a safe environment for their employees and customers.

“We are obviously disappointed in the ruling and the catastrophic effects it will continue to have on small businesses across Wisconsin,” Marsicano said in the statement.

Evers released a statement after the ruling stating that the decision was critical in helping us prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

“This crisis is urgent,” Evers said. “Wisconsinites, stay home. Limit travel and going to gatherings, and please wear a face-covering whenever you have to go out.”

The ruling comes after a week of record numbers of daily COVID-19 cases and deaths in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s coronavirus death toll reached 1,600 people Monday as hospitalizations spiked with 1,172 active patients, including 302 in the intensive care unit across the state, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association COVID-19 update.

The Oshkosh-Neenah area is listed as No. 3 in the New York Times Top 20 list of U.S. metro areas where cases are rising the fastest as of Oct. 20.

Hospitalizations are at the highest level to date in the Fox Valley area, according to the Winnebago County Health Department, or WCHD. Fox Valley hospitalizations are almost three times higher than last month with 150 COVID-19 patients as of Oct. 13.

Deaths are on the rise with one-third of the area’s total 43 COVID-19 deaths having occurred in October, according to the WCHD weekly COVID-19 data summary.

The WCHD recommends you assume you are at risk of exposure in every public place as Winnebago County had 1,155 active cases as of 1 p.m. Tuesday.

They recommend to wear a mask and keep your distance any time you are in public or with people in your household who are at risk of exposure.