Jeramey Jannene
Dining

Evers Says State Bars, Restaurants Can Stay Open

But must operate at 50 percent of their fire code capacity or 50 people maximum.

By - Mar 16th, 2020 03:00 pm
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Old World 3rd Street. Photo by Carl Baehr.

Old World 3rd Street. Photo by Carl Baehr.

Update: At 11:05 p.m. on March 16th, eleven Milwaukee County municipalities issued an Emergency Order to close bars and restaurants in their jurisdictions to in-house patrons. More on the Emergency Order here

Update: Gov. Evers has ordered all bars and restaurants to close to in-house patrons

The State of Wisconsin isn’t falling in line with Illinois, Michigan or other states: bars and restaurants here can remain open despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

A directive from Governor Tony Evers goes into effect at midnight banning gatherings of 50 or more people, but does not prohibit the dine-in operations of restaurants. Restaurants and bars are restricted to operate at only 50 percent of their fire code capacity or 50 people, whichever is less.

“This isn’t a decision I made lightly,” said Evers during a conference call Monday afternoon. Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm called the measure a “middle ground.”

Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington have all explicitly closed bars and restaurants to any business other than takeout. California Governor Gavin Newsom has asked bars, nightclubs and wineries to close.

“I’m proud, but not surprised, by the efforts of the people of Wisconsin to rise to the challenges to protect ourselves and keep our communities,” said Evers. “Folks, it’s on all of us to practice social distancing.”

“All public and private mass gatherings of 50 people or more are prohibited within the state,” said Palm. “We will get through this together.” She said people should expect more disruptions to their life in the coming days.

Evers said the 50-person level is following a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guideline. Local officials will be tasked with enforcing the capacity restrictions.

“Social distancing is possible in a restaurant so long as customers are six feet apart,” said Palm. “At this point we did not think it was necessary to do an outright ban.”

“We will be wanting to see how it goes here,” said Palm. “We are hopeful this is a middle ground, a good first step, to really be clear about we need to be doing as it relates to social distancing.”

Urban Milwaukee is maintaining a list of restaurants offering carryout or delivery options.

Evers Reacts to Call with Trump

Evers said a Monday morning call with President Donald Trump, representatives of the CDC and other governors was informative. “It was good. Robust conversation, not a lot of shouting,” said Evers.

He said it was made clear that states should seek their own supplies, including respirators and other medical supplies, for a quicker response rather than relying on a federal supply chain.

While Evers and Palm fielded questions from the media, one reporter interrupted to announce that Trump had just announced that individuals should avoid gathering in groups of more than 10, in what appears to contradict the CDC guideline. The media relations team quickly ended the hour-long call with more than 40 news outlets.

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One thought on “Dining: Evers Says State Bars, Restaurants Can Stay Open”

  1. Mark Nicolini says:

    It’s difficult to see what’s “good” about presidential guidance that each state be left on its own when it comes to procuring essential medical items such as ventilators. I’d like to see the federal government pursue the potential for ramping up private sector production through the Defense Production Act. This seems to me to be a more urgent priority than corporate bailouts, although the latter may also be appropriate. I’d like to see Governor Evers become more emphatic about how the federal government can help our state respond.

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