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Wisconsin bars reopen after court throws out stay-at-home order -- some with new rules

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway speaks to CNN's Wolf Blitzer about video showing some crowded Wisconsin bars after the state's Supreme Court overturned the coronavirus stay-at-home order.

Posted: May 15, 2020 9:00 AM


After weeks at home, some Wisconsin residents wasted no time in visiting local bars Wednesday night, shortly after the state's Supreme Court overturned the coronavirus stay-at-home order.

"First thought, we flipped it right into the parking lot," Matt Griffin, a customer at The Buzzard's Nest in West Allis, a Milwaukee suburb, told CNN affiliate WTMJ. "And yeah, we've got to get in and have a first drink."

Katie Koutski, a customer at the nearby Limanski's Pub, was just glad to relax with her friends and blow off some steam.

"I have a toddler at home and I'm a full-time nurse," she told WTMJ, "so it's been very stressful and hard to not be able to go out and be with my friends and family at the bars."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the order in a 4-3 decision, ruling Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' administration overstepped its authority when the state Department of Health Services extended the so-called "Safer at Home" order to May 26.

"We cannot let the court's ruling undo all the work we have done and all the sacrifices Wisconsin's (citizens) have made over these past few months," Evers said at a news conference Thursday. "We need everybody to continue doing their part to keep our families, our neighbors and our communities safe by continuing to stay safer at home."

As of Thursday, Wisconsin had 11,275 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 434 deaths, according to the state's Department of Health Services.

Bar owners took some precautions ...

After the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling, the Tavern League of Wisconsin, the state trade association for alcohol retailers, told businesses they could reopen immediately. It urged them to follow guidelines from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which advise businesses to have employees wear masks and frequently sanitize high-contact surfaces, among other steps.

Over the course of the night, seven customers showed up at BK's Bar in Shullsburg, Abby Gilbertson-Cottington, who owns the bar with her husband, told CNN. Most patrons stayed at least 6 feet apart, except for one couple who she believed may have been married.

"I asked if they wanted their beer opened, (but) only one person asked to open their own," Gilbertson-Cottington said. They took out half the bar stools, she said, and plan to frequently clean. The bar also has a temperature gun to check patrons for fever.

"Obviously, if someone is coughing we'll ask them to leave," Gilberston-Cottington added, "but everyone was healthy last night."

Still, not every guideline is realistic. While she wore a mask, Gilberston-Cottington said, "Gloves are not practical when opening beer bottles."

The owner of Limanski's Pub, Kathy Goedde, was watching the news when she saw the order was overturned. "I was pretty happy about that," she told WTMJ. She's limiting capacity to a third of what the bar could hold and reminding patrons to keep social distance, WTMJ reported.

Customers were greeted at the door with a sign that asked them to sanitize their hands upon entry, and to stay two bar stools apart, unless they're from the same household, the station reported.

Regardless, Koutski said she wasn't concerned about contracting the virus in the bar.

"I don't think the risk presents any higher than me going to a grocery store or me being out in the community in any other sort of way," she told WTMJ.

Asked if she would make her patrons wear masks, Gilbertson-Cottington told CNN, "How can you wear a mask and drink?"

Other states' stay-home orders have faced their own legal challenges. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected a challenge by a statehouse candidate and local businesses to Gov. Tom Wolf's order last month. In Michigan, the state House and Senate sued Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week, arguing her order, extended to May 15, was unconstitutional.

... But not everyone felt comfortable opening

Shutting down any business presents a financial hardship. BK's Bar has only been open for two and a half years, Gilberston-Cottington told CNN, and business was just picking up when the shutdown happened.

"We had enough money to be closed for a few more months," she said, "but that's not the point of owning a bar."

They got a warning from authorities on day three of the shutdown, when it was just Gilbertson-Cottington, her husband and his nephew in the bar, she said. Two weeks ago, they got a ticket for $451 after posting a photo on Facebook of five people in the bar.

"It was nice tonight to have the door open and people could walk right in again. It was beginning to feel like a speakeasy," she said.

But not every bar was comfortable reopening based on the Supreme Court's ruling.

This is It!, an LGBTQ+ bar in Milwaukee, posted a note on its Facebook page telling customers it wasn't ready to reopen just yet.

"We, like you, want life to return to normal, but we will not force any actions or decisions that compromise health and safety," the post said. "Our decision to reopen, when it is made, will be made rationally and under the guiding authority and scientific prowess of local Health and Government bodies."

George Schneider, the bar's majority owner, told CNN that he, of course, wants to reopen. But he also wants to keep his staff and customers safe.

"The Wisconsin Supreme Court may be a legal authority, but is not a public health authority," Schneider said. "You wouldn't take medical advice from a butcher, right? You'd go to your doctor."

Schneider said his late business partner lost good friends and customers during the HIV/AIDS crisis.

The community and the bar have been through hard times, Schneider said, and he expects they will overcome.

"But just like during the HIV and AIDS crisis, we need to be diligent and proactive and taking care of others' safety and health," Schneider said, "and make informed decisions, not knee-jerk reactions because we feel inconvenienced by something out of our control."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35419

Reported Deaths: 1230
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds290851
DeSoto190019
Madison144638
Jones120349
Harrison113616
Rankin108715
Neshoba104577
Forrest99343
Lauderdale96381
Scott81915
Jackson77519
Washington72213
Copiah65315
Leake63520
Lee61222
Oktibbeha61128
Grenada5949
Warren59421
Holmes58641
Wayne56218
Yazoo5536
Lowndes54813
Lamar5347
Leflore53156
Lincoln52935
Pike49920
Lafayette4974
Sunflower4778
Monroe45635
Panola4486
Covington4355
Bolivar40518
Simpson3933
Attala38424
Newton37510
Tate35213
Adams35120
Pontotoc3466
Marion32712
Claiborne30111
Chickasaw29719
Winston29511
Pearl River28832
Noxubee2788
Jasper2776
Marshall2773
Walthall2627
Clay25811
Union25211
Smith24612
Clarke22325
Coahoma2226
Lawrence2092
Yalobusha2079
Tallahatchie1954
Kemper18414
Carroll18111
Montgomery1713
Calhoun1645
Humphreys16310
Itawamba1468
Tippah14511
Hancock14413
Webster13411
Jefferson1263
Tunica1233
Jefferson Davis1204
Prentiss1204
George1163
Greene11310
Amite1103
Alcorn1002
Quitman991
Wilkinson989
Tishomingo971
Perry874
Choctaw754
Stone742
Franklin542
Sharkey480
Benton460
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6433170
Mobile4753139
Montgomery4430112
Tuscaloosa263253
Madison21199
Marshall192611
Shelby164225
Lee157237
Morgan12695
Baldwin120711
Walker106131
Elmore102920
Dallas9969
Etowah95114
DeKalb9417
Franklin93216
Autauga67614
Russell6750
Chambers67427
Unassigned65328
Butler65129
Tallapoosa62869
Limestone6223
Houston5857
Cullman5716
Lauderdale5686
St. Clair5133
Colbert4956
Calhoun4905
Lowndes48122
Escambia4808
Pike4725
Coffee4244
Jackson4182
Covington41412
Barbour3942
Dale3911
Talladega3897
Bullock37710
Marengo35211
Hale34823
Chilton3232
Clarke3126
Wilcox3038
Blount2961
Winston2965
Sumter29113
Marion27514
Pickens2696
Randolph2589
Monroe2553
Perry2362
Conecuh2308
Bibb2211
Macon2159
Choctaw21212
Greene1959
Henry1533
Washington1418
Crenshaw1273
Lawrence1250
Cherokee1237
Geneva960
Lamar871
Clay852
Fayette821
Coosa651
Cleburne421
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