Judge James Babler, a Barron County judge, has ordered the immediate reinforcement of Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ order reducing the number of people in gatherings in public spaces, including restaurants and bars. Gov. Tony Evers issued the order to limit customers in bars and restaurants to 25% capacity on October 6. Judge John Yackel, a Sawyer County judge then temporarily knocked down the governor’s order on October 14, following complaints by restaurants and bar operators that the order was devastating their businesses.
The Barron County Judge, Babler stated that the plaintiff, The Tavern League, was unable to provide convincing evidence that they had been following the order, as such they could not know or prove that it will affect them or not. He also stated that the Supreme Court’s order to knock down the governor’s order was not detailed enough.
“I beg the Supreme Court for clarity because should this issue be decided by them, trial judges need to know how they need to rule,” Judge Babler stated. “There’s no showing of irreparable harm. I merely have the theoretical issue that if they were to comply, they would suffer harm.”
The Tavern League has announced that it does not plan to appeal the ruling of the judge but begged the federal and state government to assist restaurants and bars that will be affected by the 25% capacity rule in Wisconsin. A lobbyist for The Tavern League, Scott Stenger, talked about the group’s willingness to work with the governor on how bars, restaurants, and other member establishments can help in the fight against COVID-19 but no official has contacted them. He also stated that they were not notified of the order until the governor’s announcement during a press release.
Gov. Evers has reacted to the ruling, calling it an important decision that will curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state which recorded over 174,000 cases of COVID-19 – 34,000 active cases and a death toll of 1,600. He urged Wisconsinites to stay in their houses.
“This critically important ruling will help us prevent the spread of this virus by restoring limits on public gatherings,” Gov. Evers explained. “This crisis is urgent. Wisconsinites, stay home.”
Many of the 5,000 members of the group were eligible to receive grants as stipulated in the CARES Act. The governor announced in May that businesses should send their applications to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. About 30,000 businesses that had 20 employees or less and had not received financial aid from the corporation were eligible.
Stenger suggested that the state can allow bars to sell alcoholic drinks to people as take-out. He stated that this will not affect the business too severely neither will it require funding from the government. Kevin Riley, owner of Riley’s Sports Bar and Grill in Janesville, Rock County, stated that the ruling is targeted at ending small restaurants and bar owners like him. Riley urged the governor to shut down all sectors instead of singling out restaurants and bars only.
The president of the League, Chris Marsicano, has also reacted to judge Babler’s ruling. He explained that the ruling is quite disappointing because a lot of businesses that will be affected are small businesses that were just trying to survive.