Evers closes bars and restaurants amid coronavirus concerns


Advance-Titan Photo: Allison Russotto Many stores such as Walmart had empty shelves for things like toilet paper as people rushed to buy necessities.

Joseph Schulz, Managing Editor

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday ordered a statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10 people starting March 17, and closed all bars and restaurants for dine-in service to limit the spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

“We are seeing community spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, this means that there are people who have tested positive who have had no exposures to a known case, nor did they travel to a location where there is known community spread,” Evers said in a media briefing on Tuesday. “Social distancing will help keep you and your family and our community from increased risk of exposure.”

At the briefing, Evers also asked the state legislature to repeal Wisconsin’s one week wait period for collecting unemployment.

The move comes after Illinois, Washington state, Ohio, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut have all closed bars and restaurants for dine-in eating, according to the Associated Press. Bars and restaurants in those states as well as Wisconsin are still permitted to serve carryout and delivery customers.

Prior to the order closing bars and restaurants, some local employers were taking other preventative measures.

Red’s Pizza and Catering on Oregon Street had already canceled its Wednesday and Friday night buffets, and recommends that employees stay home if they’re sick, according to manager Mary Leichtfuss.

“Basically, we are just reminding staff to use common sense,” she said.

Planet Perk, a coffee shop in downtown Oshkosh, was also taking precautions to keep employees safe before Evers’ order took effect, according to a March 12 Facebook post.

All staff members are wearing gloves at all times and changing gloves after handling money or changing work stations. Between those glove changes, employees are washing their hands.

Wipes had been placed next to the cash register so the screen can be cleaned between uses. Self-serve coffee and water dispensers were moved behind the counter.

Employees were also disinfecting all surfaces such as the back of chairs, door handles, counters and tables in 15-minute intervals. All bathrooms will be disinfected every 20 minutes.

Any employee who is experiencing symptoms or who is aware of exposure has been told not to come to work.

Planet Perk is also looking to set up delivery service through EatStreet, GrubHub or UberEats once they are satisfied they have the appropriate protocols in place,” according to the post. The coffee shop does currently offer carryout options.

“All Planet Perk locations are safe and clean environments,” the post read. “Our hope is that these additional steps will help mitigate any concerns you may have. We are also working with the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the local Health Department to ensure that we are following the latest recommendations on best practices.”

At the Hangar Bar and Grill on 20th Avenue, employees are continuously washing surfaces such as table tops, bar counters, door handles, backs of chairs and bathroom stall doors with a disinfectant solution, according to owner Lisa Marshall.

Employees were already washing their hands regularly before the coronavirus, but now they’re washing their hands even more, Marshall noted.

“Our hands are all dry from the washing continually and from the chemicals,” she said.

If an employee shows symptoms of illness or anyone they live with is showing symptoms, they are asked not to come to work, Marshall added.

“We also would hope that if anyone is showing symptoms of illness that they don’t venture out to any public place during this volatile time,” she said.

She noted the Hangar is offering curbside delivery and carry out services.

Marshall said restaurants closing could be devastating for small business owners, but is ultimately necessary.

“Not going to lie, no business owner wants to have to close; it’s gut wrenching to think about the consequences of that scenario and hard to think about what employees are going to do without being able to work,” Marshall said. “We can all take the hit, get through it and move on. It’s going to be ugly for everyone but we have to look at the long-term effects this is going to render locally and nationwide.”

One small business in the area announced that it would be closing before Evers placed a ban, beginning on March 16 to stop the spread of COVID-19. In a Facebook post Monday, Mihm’s Charcoal Grill in Menasha said it will be closed until further notice.

“This is a very difficult decision, but the health and safety of our customers and staff take precedence over everything during this uncertain time,” the post read. “We hope you all will understand and will come and see us when we reopen.”