Jeramey Jannene

Three Businesses Fined for Violating COVID-19 Order

City cites businesses in Bay View, Bronzeville and the Lower East Side.

By - Nov 14th, 2020 01:42 pm
Cafe India, 2201-2203 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Cafe India, 2201-2203 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee Health Department announced it would move from warnings to citations for violations of the city’s COVID-19 health order on October 22nd.

Since then health department inspectors have found three violators.

Cafe India, 2201 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., failed to comply with both social distancing and mask requirements according to the city. SkyBox Sports Bar, 2213 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., was found to violate the same two requirements. Casablanca, 728 E. Brady St., was found to have patrons smoking hookahs, legal under normal circumstances, but prohibited by the health order.

The citations include a penalty of $500 for each offense, with Cafe India and Skybox both slated to receive two citations each. A pending proposal before the Common Council would expand the fine for future violations to a range of $500 to $5,000 per offense.

None of the businesses have approved safety plans, which can override the city’s blanket capacity limit in favor of an individualized plan. The city has received 993 applications for the plans and approved 664 to date.

The three businesses join two others cited for violations of the current city order: Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely phase 4.2.

The city levied three citations totaling $1,500 against Fiesta Café1407 S. 1st St., on August 6th. Previously a breakfast-centric restaurant, the business added a nachos stand and two-story outdoor bar this summer. A city report says the restaurant violated restrictions on mask-wearing, distancing and capacity.

Trinity Three Irish Pubs, 125 E. Juneau Ave., received two citations totaling $1,000 on October 6th for violating the city’s mask mandate and for failing to comply with distancing requirements. Trinity, which has a city-approved health plan, is allowed a higher capacity limit.

Sixty-two businesses have received warnings since July 27th. But the city moved to stricter enforcement in late October. “The educational period is over,” said Mayor Tom Barrett in a press briefing October 22nd. “People are either with the program or they’re not with the program.”

The health department hopes increasing the fines will encourage voluntary compliance. “I have heard from businesses in several sectors that the $500 amount is what they would make in an evening if they went beyond capacity limits,” said deputy commissioner Claire Evers to the council’s Public Safety & Health Committee on Thursday.

Evers said the city is increasing the size of its inspection staff. “We have some fresh faces that I understand enjoy the weekend work,” she said. New workers are reassigned health department employees. The work is paid for by the city’s federal CARES Act grant allocation.

The department sends out its inspectors in pairs and never after 10 p.m. because of staffing shortages and safety concerns. The inspectors start with complaints and then move to spot inspections.

Violations of the city’s health order can be reported by calling 414-286-3674 or emailing cehadmin@milwaukee.gov. According to a city statement, complaints will remain anonymous.

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