Amery bar and anti-abortion group appeal decision to reinstate Evers’ order limiting capacity

MADISON – An Amery bar and an anti-abortion group are asking a state appeals court to overturn a judge’s decision to reinstate Gov. Tony Evers’ limits on public gatherings and capacity in bars and restaurants.

Attorneys for Miki Jo’s Mix Up bar and restaurant and Pro-Life Wisconsin filed the appeal on Tuesday and are asking for a ruling in the matter by Friday. 

Evers’ order limiting the number of customers bars and restaurants may serve at one time expires during the first week of November. The governor has not said whether he will extend the limits. 

The appeal is in a lawsuit initially brought by a Sawyer County bar and the Tavern League of Wisconsin, whose lobbyist said Monday would not appeal the Barron County judge’s decision

The Mix Up and Pro-Life Wisconsin joined the suit just before a hearing in the case on Monday.

During the Monday hearing, an attorney for the bar said the order resulted in a 25% drop off in business because customers chose to stay away. Pro-Life Wisconsin is suing because the order limits the number of people they may invite to fundraisers, an attorney said Monday. 

Barron County Judge James Babler was not persuaded by the arguments on Monday because the plaintiffs hadn’t proven the bars suing were actually limiting customers and therefore hadn’t experienced harm. 

The lawsuit argues Evers should have used a legislative process known as rulemaking to implement the limits, a route that gives a Republican-controlled committee veto power.

Under the order, restaurants and bars are limited to serving 25% of their capacity. If the bars do not have official capacity figures, the establishments are limited to serving 10 people.

The lawsuit comes as Wisconsin is posting daily records in numbers of new COVID-19 cases and after Evers opened a field hospital to provide relief to health care facilities in the northeast part of the state. 

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A Tavern League lobbyist said Monday the group would have worked with the governor on limits that would help curb the spread of the virus but would not be so restrictive that bars would lose money if they stayed open. He said no one from the governor’s office reached out to them to negotiate. 

Evers said Monday the reinstatement of the order will save lives at a time when infections are skyrocketing. 

Contact Molly Beck at molly.beck@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MollyBeck.