Judge halts public gatherings order in Tavern League lawsuit, Brown County leaders looking at their options
SAWYER COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A judge has ordered a temporary restraining order halting Gov. Tony Evers' emergency order that limited public gatherings as the state deals with a COVID-19 outbreak.
Hon. John M. Yackel entered the order Wednesday morning in Sawyer County Court. That’s where the Tavern League of Wisconsin filed its lawsuit seeking to block the emergency order issued by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
A court hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 19, in which the state can give its reasons why a temporary restraining order should not be in place.
“A Sawyer County judge has just issued a temporary restraining order in our lawsuit against the enforcement of Secretary Palm designee’s recent Executive Order #3 limiting gatherings to 25% of occupancy at restaurants, taverns and supper clubs. This is only a temporary order and there is a hearing scheduled for Monday morning. The effect of the judge’s order means the Governor’s Executive Order has been temporarily put on hold and is currently not in effect until the court can decide on the case,” reads a statement from the Tavern League of Wisconsin. “The ruling does not impact any local orders in effect. Please continue to follow all WEDC and CDC guidelines at your business. We will continue to keep you posted on developments in the case.”
Health agencies in Brown County are scrambling to figure out a next step.
“Everyone was kind of anticipating that there will probably be some of type of action that would take place. At this point in time, it’s with our court counsel,” Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach said.
Leaders in Brown County expressed frustration as they try to slow the spread of COVID-19 in what’s now a hotspot.
“You guys, this is not rocket science. This is essentially us trying to keep our public safe,” Streckenbach said.
Dan Timmers, co-owner of Hagemeister Park in Green Bay, described the governor’s actions as aggressive
“We want to contribute to the community and help out anyway we can as well, but you know 25 percent, it’s almost as much as not being open,” Timmers said.
Timmers added that the governor’s announcement alone kept people away from his restaurant.
“It’s slowed us down...fortunately we’re still doing a lot of pick up, delivery, and curbside. But, there’s no doubt our in-door dining has been affected,” Timmers said.
In his statement about the lawsuit, Tavern League President Chris Marsicano said, “The lawsuit asserts that Emergency Order #3 is invalid and unenforceable because it was not promulgated as an administrative rule as required by the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling just five months ago in Wisconsin Legislature v Palm.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Emergency Order #3 directed restaurants and bars and other small businesses to operate at 25 percent capacity through Nov. 6.
Marsicano says the order “targets the hard-working men and women in the hospitality industry.”
“Restaurants, taverns, bars, and supper clubs did not cause this pandemic, but they are systematically facing bankruptcy, closure, and economic ruin. Those of us left cannot survive a reduction of 75% of our customers proposed by Secretary-designee Palm. We do not have the financial wherewithal to survive the blunt force of another business shutdown which have not proven effective and will result in catastrophic losses in the hospitality industry in Wisconsin,” says Marsicano.
Marsicano says he will continue to direct members to follow the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation guidelines on COVID-19 safety.
Evers posted the following video to Facebook Wednesday afternoon in response to the ruling, saying the state will be challenging the court’s decision, and asks everyone to stay home:
In May, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against the state’s original Safer at Home Order, saying Wisconsin Department of Health Service secretary-designee Andrea Palm did not have power to issue such an order. On a 4-3 vote, the conservative majority at the time ruled that the order was “unlawful” and “invalid.” That left local governments to decide on public health orders.
The makeup of the Wisconsin Supreme Court has since changed. Justice Jill J. Karofsky, considered a more liberal-leaning jurist, won an election to replace conservative Daniel Kelly. In May, conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn joined the liberal wing in the dissent.
On Oct. 6, Evers directed Palm to issue Emergency Order #3 that limits public gatherings to no more than 25 percent of a room or building’s capacity. It went into effect on Oct. 8 and was scheduled to remain in effect until Nov. 6.
There are exemptions. CLICK HERE for more information.
Wisconsin is considered one of the nation’s hot spots when it comes to COVID-19. On Tuesday, the state announced 34 new deaths and 3,279 new cases of the virus. Both numbers reflect record highs for the state.
The percent-positive seven-day average is nearing 20 percent. CLICK HERE to track COVID-19 numbers in Wisconsin.
On Monday, Evers won a court battle when it comes to his statewide mandate that people wear masks in public. A circuit court judge ruled the plaintiffs did not make a case for an injunction saying, “Nothing in the statute prohibits the governor from declaring successive states of emergency.”
The Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty filed the lawsuit on behalf of three private citizens in the case. The organization has said it will appeal to a higher court.
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