75 Businesses Demand a City Mask Mandate
Pabst Theater Group, Colectivo, Fiserv Forum, Bartolotta join call for action.
More than 75 Milwaukee businesses are calling for Mayor Tom Barrett and the Common Council to enact a citywide mask mandate for public spaces.
The backers range from some of the biggest restaurant groups and entertainment venues in the city to small restaurants, the Verlo mattress company and Milwaukee Kickers soccer club.
The proposal, introduced by a letter sent to Barrett and Common Council President Cavalier Johnson, is backed by the Pabst Theater Group, Fiserv Forum, The Bartolotta Restaurants, Colectivo Coffee, the Lowlands Group and 70 other businesses.
It would require masks to be worn in public spaces, including stores, restaurants and bars (except when eating or drinking), theaters and museums, in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik announced in a press release Friday that bars and restaurants could expand to 50 percent of approved capacity on July 1st. The Milwaukee Health Department said masks were not being required because of “equity concerns,” but that the department recommends wearing one when possible.
“Without a city mandate, many customers will not be willing to come to our businesses. Compliance with requirements a business may establish will be inconsistent at best. Our employees can’t be assured of a safe work environment. And the risk is higher for new outbreaks, which could result in new stay-at-home orders that put us out of business for good,” said the businesses in the letter.
Johnson, one of the letter’s recipients, said in a statement to Urban Milwaukee that a mask mandate is a tool the city could use.
“As Milwaukee’s economy continues to open, it’s imperative that we are adaptable and learn from other communities. Seeing other communities open only to impose restrictions in response to community spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) soon thereafter is a mistake that we hope to avoid hereby seeking options to protect public health,” said Johnson. “Mandating protective face mask wearing is a tool that could help us to accomplish the goal of blunting the spread of disease while carefully getting Milwaukee back on track.”
“I’m proud to stand with a growing list of Milwaukee restaurants, coffee shops and other businesses that have joined together to urge Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Cavalier Johnson to require that masks be worn by patrons and workers in public spaces,” said Gary Witt, Pabst Theater Group CEO, in a statement to Urban Milwaukee. “Milwaukee businesses cannot afford to be closed again due to an increase in infections that could have been stopped by simply requiring that we all wear a mask. People deserve to be safe when supporting and working in Milwaukee businesses.”
A recent survey of 26 grocery stores in Wisconsin found that only 41 percent of customers wore masks.
A number of cities and states across the country have implemented bans, including Nashville, Tennessee whose ban started Monday morning. Wisconsin is one of four states in the country, according to Masks4All, that does not have a statewide or municipal mask requirement for any situation.
Over 30 states have a mask mandate that requires masks in at least some situations. Michigan requires them in every situation where social distancing isn’t possible. Minneapolis requires them inside retail stores, hotels, schools, governments, and recreational facilities. Illinois has a statewide mandate.
Many of the mandates provide exceptions for public situations when social distancing can be maintained or wearing a mask would be burdensome.
Businesses in Wisconsin can mandate masks for their customers, and a growing number in Milwaukee were spotted this weekend with posted requirements.
The Milwaukee letter does not lay out a specific policy proposal, only calling for action on a mandate. “Mask wearers – including our customers and employees – are not protected if others don’t wear masks,” says the letter.
Businesses interested in signing on in support can email Milwaukee Independent Restaurant Coalition at email@example.com.
A change.org petition is available for members of the public to sign.
Barrett’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
A copy of the letter can be found on Urban Milwaukee.
UPDATE #1: Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic has introduced a mask mandate that will be reviewed on July 2nd. City records indicate she was working on the proposal before the letter was submitted.
UPDATE #2: McBob’s Pub and Grill told Urban Milwaukee in a statement that it was included in the letter without permission. “Our name was used without our permission Our philosophy is the freedom to choose, from my employees to our customers. So there are no masks worn by my staff all their choice,” said the restaurant.
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