Milwaukee cracking down on bars, businesses as city sees uptick in COVID-19 cases

NOW: Milwaukee cracking down on bars, businesses as city sees uptick in COVID-19 cases

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) - With cases and hospitalizations in Milwaukee seeing an uptick, the city’s health department is now cracking down even harder on bars and other establishments who are not cooperating with COVID-19 safety measures.

According to the Milwaukee Health Department, 63 warning letters have been sent to bars, restaurants and businesses in the city since the end of July. Of the 63, two places were given citations totaling a $1,000 or more, but now more places may be seeing citations when complaints come in.

“Unfortunately we’ve seen a number of bars and other establishments that have not been cooperative—so this is the next step,” said Tom Barrett, Mayor of Milwaukee.

Mayor Tom Barrett said Thursday, Oct. 22, the cases represent a serious situation, so now warnings will no longer be given. If a complaint is received by the health department, a phone call will be made and a visit will follow. If there’s not compliance, a citation will be written.

“You are not going to get that warning letter if you are not in compliance whether it’s complaint driven or not a citation will be issued,” said Mayor Barrett.

Fiesta Café received three citations in August totaling $1,500 dollars for masking, distancing and capacity violations. Each citation is $500. The owner tells CBS 58 they never received warnings, and they’ve hired an attorney to fight the citations.

“We think people are with the program or they’re not with the program and so the education period is essentially over,” says Mayor Barrett.

In October, Trinity Three Irish Pubs also received citations totaling $1,000 dollars for masking and distancing violations.

Milwaukee’s health department requires all bars and restaurants with a dine-in option submit a safety plan. As of Friday, 981 plans have been submitted and 537 are approved. The Mayor says the safety plans are more restrictive than the governor’s 25-percent capacity limit, which was put on hold Friday after a Wisconsin appeals court ruling.

“Most of our businesses have been cooperative,” said Mayor Barrett. “But the rare business that flouts the rules previously unfortunately knew there were little consequences to a complaint.”

The Milwaukee Health Department says they’re reviewing their current COVID-19 orders, and it’s possible they’ll add more measures for the city as soon as next week.

“Despite all of our COVID-19 fatigue we must remain vigilant,” said Dr. Ben Weston, Medical Director at Milwaukee County of Emergency Management.

The evaluation comes after the city’s cases and testing indicators are both red.

“There are no indications of a slowing of this increase—there is no flattening of the curve,” adds Dr. Weston.

Before getting together with friends or others not in your household, Dr. Weston says remember that a small gathering isn’t as harmless as it seems.

“A number of smaller gatherings of ten people can spread it just as much as a wedding of 200 people,” said Dr. Weston.

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