MADISON – Helbachs Coffee, a controversial Middleton cafe, launched a “freedom fund” this week after public health officials cited owners for violating the county’s mask mandate.
The GoFundMe, started by owner Casey Helbach, argues Madison and Dane County Public Health department infringed on the shop’s constitutional rights by requiring all customers to wear a face covering.
“Helbachs believes that this order is unlawful and should be opposed in court,” the petition says. “We are not against the public’s safety but rather against Madison (and) Dane County Public Health infringing on our constitutional rights.”
Per the city/county mandate, which is in effect until further notice, face masks are required indoors — except at your home and at restaurants — including in businesses, health care settings, waiting in lines and on public transportation.
While the shop won’t be contesting the health department’s $263.50 citation, it said it will file suit against Madison and Dane County Public Health.
Helbachs faced scrutiny earlier in July after a photograph declaring the business a mask-free zone circulated on social media. The health department received 390 mask compliance complaints last week after the new mandate went into effect — more than 180 of those were related to Helbachs, the health department’s spokesperson said.
Two days after Helbachs’ sign went viral, the health department visited the cafe to provide instruction on face coverings, in accordance with its guidelines to educate before issuing fines.
Helbachs’ owners felt “more harassed than educated” during the visit, according to the GoFundMe. But Madison Assistant City Attorney Marci Paulsen told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the owner was “not receptive” to requests to comply with public health orders. The owner called the police during the visit because he felt harassed.
After receiving a letter from the health department on Monday warning the establishment it would be cited if employees and patrons weren’t required to wear masks, Helbachs was fined twice for failure to post signage stating masks are required.
People donating to Helbachs have posted public comments such as “We are still free” and “Masks are control over the population.”