Supreme Court decision is good news for area bar owners
Wisconsin bar owners got some good news last night, when the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 4-3 to strike down Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer At Home mandate, which had placed restrictions on many state businesses since it was issued March 17.
Justices also decided not to grant a request from the Republican-controlled Legislature – which brought the lawsuit before the court - to keep the order in effect for six days to allow Evers and Republican leadership to come up with an alternative to Safer At Home.
The ruling eliminates all restrictions placed on businesses, meaning bars, taverns and restaurants can open immediately if they so choose.
Monroe County Tavern League President Todd Giraud said the ruling is a big win for small business owners, especially bars and restaurants, some that have been closed completely for nearly two months.
“I think its within our constitutional rights. I don’t think any government should take away the right of a business to stay open. We’re small businesses and our rights are our rights,” he said.
While bars that serve food have been closed to in-house dining since the mandate came down March 17, many have remained open for carry-outs, curbside service and delivery.
Taverns that don’t serve food, however, had no option but to remain closed under Evers’ order.
Earlier this week, Evers opted to allow many small businesses across the state to reopen with restrictions.
But tavern owners were still left in the lurch with no other option but to remain closed.
Wednesday’s ruling changed all of that, however, and as news of the decision spread, many bars announced they would be reopening this (Thursday) morning.
Some even opted to open as early as Wednesday night in the immediate wake of the Supreme Court’s decision.
While bars – many who have been struggling financially during the mandate - will be back in business shortly, Giraud doesn’t expect a rush of customers to those establishments.
“I think it’s going to be a soft opening,” he said, adding the Tavern League of Wisconsin is recommending its members adhere to Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation guidelines when reopening.
Those guidelines, which are posted on the Tavern League of Wisconsin’s website, recommend all employees should wear masks and gloves, bars should practice social distancing requirements of six feet, all tables should be six feet apart and no tables of more than six people would be allowed.
In addition, bar owners should reduce their maximum on-premise capacity by 50 percent and outdoor eating and drinking areas should follow the social distancing requirement of six feet.
Salad bars and self-serve buffets would be prohibited, along with paper menus and table condiments.
“We will follow the guidelines that are suggested. Most small businesses are family owned, we want to protect out employees, our families, out customer and out future customers,” Giraud offered. “People are going to be cautious as well, and businesses are going to be cautious.”
While bars sometimes have a negative reputation because of the nature of their business, Giraud believes they are the lifeblood of many small communities across the state.
Proof of that lies in the $15 million-plus the Tavern League of Wisconsin and its 5,000 members donated to nearly 12,000 Wisconsin charities in 2019.
In addition, the positive impact of the hospitality in Wisconsin includes producing nearly 150,000 jobs and contributing $935 million annually to the states tax base.
Locally, the Monroe County Tavern League contributed more than $60,000 to charities last year.
“Anytime someone is having a benefit, they ask for donations from small businesses, especially bars – that’s whey we need to support them,” said Giraud. “We need to get back to supporting our local businesses because those are the ones who support us.”