Superior Bars React to Safer-at-Home Order Struck Down by Wisconsin Supreme Court

The order, as well as the six-day injunction, were rejected, leaving businesses free to open immediately.

SUPERIOR, Wis.- Just as quickly as some say it started, Wisconsin’s safer-at-home order is, for now, finished–struck down by the State Supreme Court. Businesses statewide, including bars and restaurants, now have the green light to “open immediately” according to a social media post by the Tavern League of Wisconsin.

“Come on in!” said Cory Gatzke, triumphantly throwing open the shades at Les Birds Bar Wednesday night.

As customers trickled in, staff rushed to take down the stools that have sat unused on tables for months.

“Right now I think it’s, I’m happy with it,” said Gatzke, co-owner of the bar on Tower Avenue. “Because I don’t know how much longer we would be able to withstand this if had they not allowed us to open.”

Judges ruled that while Gov. Tony Evers executed the original order, the DHS secretary who extended it until May 26th did not have the authority to do so.

Evers responded with a statement late Wednesday expressing his disappointment with the situation. “We had reached almost all our gating criteria. We had opened up 14,000 small businesses across the state, putting 90,000 folks back to work,” the Governor said of the progress the state has made.

We cannot let today’s ruling undo all the work we have done and all the sacrifices Wisconsinites have made over these past few months…This virus has killed more than 400 of our family members, friends, and neighbors and thousands more across our state are sick. I am disappointed in the decision today, but our top priority has been and will remain doing what we can and what we have to do to protect the health and safety of the people of our state. After months of unproductive posturing, I hope the folks in the Legislature are ready to do the same.”

Keith Kern, President of the Superior Douglas County Tavern League, was unable to sit for an interview–because, he said, he was getting swamped with calls while also figuring out a plan to open his own business.

Kern did  say the league is “very happy,” and that it’s time for bars and restaurants to show that “they can do it”–be safe, while being open and getting some much needed income.

Meanwhile, Douglas County officials still strongly advise caution.

“COVID-19 remains a real threat,” Health Officer Kathy Ronchi said. “I would remind the residents of Douglas County to make choices with the health and safety of themselves, their families, and friends in mind. Physical distancing and disinfection strategies have been imperative in reducing the spread of this disease in our community.”

The owners of Les Birds do share that hesitation, being caught off guard by the decision. Their bar is still largely un-stocked, and safety guidelines have not even been discussed yet.

“I was hoping to have a little more time to look at the other states who opened last week and previous weeks to see if they had a spike in cases, and if their staff is safe and what provisions different businesses put in place to protect their customers and their employees,” said co-owner Kimberly Moore.

Meanwhile Izzy’s Bar and Grill on North 3rd Street plans on opening Thursday.

“I was kind of shocked, and I just got some phone calls explaining that to me but I was happy about it, because I’m not making any money,” said owner Isadore “Izzy” Turner II. A few members of his staff buzzed around making preparations.

“I have bills to pay and I was shut down for a while so I was remodeling and painting and stuff–but you gotta pay for all that,” he said.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling did say that local governments are allowed to institute their own regulations now. Mayor of Superior Jim Paine is expected to make a statement Thursday after speaking with local and state experts.

But for now, Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec reiterates that businesses are indeed open.

“It is now up to the legislature and Governor’s office to work together to come up with procedures and best practices for businesses to follow,” Dalbec said in a Facebook post. “If they do not, it will fall upon the local County Health Dept. to implement those.”

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