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Judge lifts Wisconsin's 25% cap on indoor restaurant dining

Places can resume using up to 50% of their dining rooms--at least for now.
Photograph: Pexels

Restaurants in Wisconsin can resume using 50% of their dining rooms after a judge suspended the state directive that lowered the indoor capacity cap to 25% on Oct. 8.

A restraining order blocking enforcement of the emergency measure was issued by Sawyer County Circuit Court Judge John Yackel on the same day health officials reported a record 3,279 new cases of COVID-19 and 34 deaths from the illness within the state. Gov. Tony Evers had ordered a rollback of indoor customer capacities for all retail businesses on Oct. 6 because of a surge in coronavirus infections within Wisconsin. At the time, restaurants and other retail businesses could use up to 50% of their indoor capacities. The 25% cap would remain in place until at least Nov. 6, the administration said at the time.

Yackel’s order was triggered by a lawsuit filed yesterday against the state health administration and several of its officials by the Tavern League of Wisconsin, the Sawyer County Tavern League and Flambeau Forest Inn, a local bar.

The temporary restraining order will remain in place until the suit is resolved, Yackel said in his order. He also directed the health officials—acting Secretary of Wisconsin Health Services Andrea Palm and Sawyer County Health Officer Julia Lyons—to appear before him on Monday morning at 9 a.m. and air their objections to the restraining order.

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association had yet to issue a public response by the time this story was posted. It has been outspoken in objecting to the Oct. 6 rollback in dining-room capacities. “At 25% capacity, most restaurants will be faced with possibly closing their indoor dining since 25% capacity will not allow them to pay their bills,” reads a statement posted on the group’s website. “And most restaurants will be faced with the difficult decision to possibly close their doors permanently.”

Yackel said his decision to halt enforcement of the 25% cap was based on materials submitted by the plaintiffs.

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