FILE - Beer Tap

This Dec. 25, 2018, photo shows beer taps at a bar at the Back Bowl bowling alley in Eagle, Colo. 

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s attempt to control the coronavirus has the state’s Tavern League heading to court. 

The Tavern League, which represents bars and other places that serve alcohol, on Tuesday filed a lawsuit to stop Gov. Tony Evers’ order limiting indoor crowds to 25% of capacity. 

“Restaurants, taverns, bars, and supper clubs did not cause this pandemic, but they are systematically facing bankruptcy, closure, and economic ruin,” Tavern League President Chris Marsicano said. “Those of us left cannot survive a reduction of 75% of our customers. 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.”

The Tavern League’s lawsuit asks a judge in Sawyer County to immediately halt the governor’s order so it can be settled through the legislature’s rulemaking process. 

“[The] order unfairly targets the hardworking men and women in the hospitality industry and is in clear violation of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Palm decision issued just five month ago,” Marsicano said. “Thankfully, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has already established that ‘rulemaking exists precisely to ensure [the] controlling, subjective judgment asserted by one unelected official, [DHS Secretary] Palm, is not imposed in Wisconsin’.”

Republicans on the state’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules on Monday began the process of reviewing the crowd limit order. The next step is for the Department of Health Services to submit the order to lawmakers, then there will be a public hearing. The head of the JCRAR said on Monday that DHS has refused to submit the order, saying that there isn’t anything to submit. 

Evers on Tuesday said he will not submit anything to lawmakers. He said his order on crowd limits is constitutional, and will remain in place. 

That order is supposed to remain in effect until the Friday after Election Day. 

The Tavern League’s Marsicano said bars, taverns, and supper clubs will struggle until then, though he did stop short of saying many bars and taverns will defy the governor’s order. 

“The Tavern League of Wisconsin will continue to encourage its members to follow WEDC [Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation] guidelines to provide safe environments for our patrons and employees. As an association, we support efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, but allow our members to continue to serve their communities,” Marsicano said.

“The city of Milwaukee has found a way to allow bars and restaurants to operate fully with approved safety plans. These efforts deserve further examination through the rulemaking process and should be tailored to fit the unique circumstances of each county.”

 

The Center Square Correspondent

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.