OPEN IMMEDIATELY!: Wisconsinites head out to bars after state stay-at-home orders lifted
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After the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the state’s stay-at-home order, which immediately lifted restrictions on businesses and gatherings, some bars opened their doors (and taps) Wednesday night as patrons began trickling out.
The ruling applied to Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide order to lock down Wisconsin amid the public health emergency of the coronavirus pandemic. Evers intended to keep the order in place until May 26. However, localities are still imposing and extending their own stay-at-home orders, meaning not all businesses in the state may immediately open.
Photos showed small gatherings of Wisconsinites out at bars and restaurants shortly after the ruling came down, while some establishments posted on social media they were staying closed.
What bars in Wisconsin were like Wednesday night
More than a dozen people had flocked to State Street Pub in Green Bay by 7 p.m. Wednesday. Owner Tera Hansen chose to open as soon as she could, and people started dropping in without any kind of announcement on social media.
At Lenny’s Tap, about a mile and a half away, four employees wearing masks served about 20 patrons who stopped by for a drink. Owner Marty Leonhard said the bar’s beer distributor had already delivered two shipments by 8 p.m.
Nick’s, a bar in Platteville, posted a photo and video on Twitter of two dozen or so patrons at the bar.
The Tavern League of Wisconsin, a trade association of alcoholic beverage retailers in the state, posted on Facebook shortly after the ruling that, while guidelines should be followed, “you can OPEN IMMEDIATELY!”
In Appleton, The Shop Bar & Grille owner Tyler Reilly said he decided to open his restaurant Wednesday night after seeing big box stores full of people earlier in the day, many not wearing masks or social distancing. Reilly said about 10 people showed up Wednesday night after announcing on Facebook that the restaurant would reopen.
Reilly said he planned to keep the restaurant open and would implement some safety procedures, such as checking temperatures of everyone in the restaurant and moving tables 6 feet apart.
“We’re going to be doing a few things to make sure that everyone is still safe. Our team and our customers are our number one priority and their safety, but we also need to start paying our bills or we won’t be able to open back up,” Reilly said.
Are all bars opening?
No. Local officials can put their own limits in place, and rules could vary significantly from one community to the next.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett quickly declared that the city’s stay-at-home order is still in place. In all, at least nine localities have issued their own orders placing restrictions on businesses and gatherings each with varying expiration dates.
While still under local stay-at-home orders, some bars and restaurant in Milwaukee said they were remaining closed regardless of the ruling.
“Highbury Pub will not be opening anytime soon. Not even close bud….Please wear a face covering,” the bar posted on Facebook.
“You cannot believe how excited we are to see everyone’s smiling faces back in O’Lydia’s, but we believe opening spur of the moment would not be in the best interests of our staff and customers,” O’Lydias Bar & Grill wrote on Facebook.
What about other things in Wisconsin? Can I get a haircut? Are schools going to open?
For schools, no. The state supreme court’s ruling did not apply to the portion of Evers’ order that required face-to-face instruction to cease in public and private schools, but the majority did not explain why.
For haircuts, yes. As long as your county or city allows hair salons and barbers to be open, and as long as your preferred stylist decides to reopen, you can get a clip.
Worship services can now be held in person, too, as long as there are no local restrictions on holding them. It will be up to individual churches, synagogues and mosques to decide whether to allow them.
Evers, GOP lawmakers meet by phone after ruling
Evers and Republican lawmakers met by phone Thursday morning as Wisconsin looked to the state leaders for clarity on what daily life is supposed to look like now that the governor’s stay-at-home order is gone.
The two sides did not immediately say how the discussion went or what they plan to do next.
Republicans who asked the Supreme Court to strike down the order haven’t offered a plan to replace Evers’ plan and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau signaled Wednesday evening he wouldn’t be pushing for new restrictions anytime soon.
But the state Department of Health Services plans to propose a new plan with restrictions on Thursday, setting the stage for another clash.
Why did the state supreme court rule to strike down the order?
The state’s highest court, which is controlled by conservatives, sided with Republican lawmakers Wednesday in the decision that curbed the Evers administration’s power to act unilaterally during public health emergencies.
GOP lawmakers who brought the lawsuit have said the legal challenge was necessary to get a seat at the table where Evers and state health officials make decisions about how to respond to the outbreak, which has killed 418 people in the state in two months.
Evers has maintained his administration needs to be nimble and is relying on health experts to guide his decisions. He has said the procedure GOP lawmakers successfully sought will mean the state won’t be able to act quickly.
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack determined Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm should have issued regulations through a process known as rulemaking, which gives lawmakers veto power over agency policies.
Without legislative review, “an unelected official could create law applicable to all people during the course of COVID-19 and subject people to imprisonment when they disobeyed her order,” the majority wrote.
Other justices saw it differently.
“This decision will undoubtedly go down as one of the most blatant examples of judicial activism in this court’s history. And it will be Wisconsinites who pay the price,” Justice Rebecca Dallet wrote in one dissent.