Nearly 60 Milwaukee businesses fined for violating COVID orders since July

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – Nearly 60 businesses have been fined in the city of Milwaukee for violating COVID orders.

The list, provided by the city, shows violations like failure to wear masks, social distancing and dancing.

It’s something that has business leaders feeling attacked during a difficult time. The list is made up of some restaurants, convenience stores, bars and lounges.

Business leaders say they can see both sides of the issue, but fear these fines will put a stop to economic growth and only continue to hurt a sector already struggling.

“I understand why the health department is doing this,” says local business leader, Omar Shaikh. “We’ve worked with them [the health department] for the last year. I think this should have happened nine months ago.”

Shaikh has been following the trends in the industry and fears some of the fines being handed out could be detrimental to the local economy.

“I’ve always stood up for a responsible business,” says Shaikh. “I will not stand up for an irresponsible business. I do think that in a lot of cases, if they’re not wearing masks, they’re not distancing, they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, I understand that.”

The list has nearly 60 businesses with a total of more than $126,000 in fines. At least five of them have repeat offenses of social distancing, mask-wearing and standing or dancing.

VIP Lounge has received eight fines, totaling $21,500.

“Right now is when we need to collaborate and figure out ways that we can get businesses to the other side,” says Shaikh. “At the same time, keep people safe and really the efforts again should be spending money on the infrastructure to vaccinate people right now.”

The Milwaukee Health Department increased the fine of $500 to between $500 and $5,000, with a cap of $20,000 for a single fine.

These fines are then considered and reviewed when a business looks to renew a license.

“If I were one of the owners or operators of one of these establishments, I would not be real excited about going before the common council jurisdiction committee if I had a long list of violations,” says Mayor Tom Barrett.

“I really understand both sides and it is about public safety,” says Shaikh. “But people should also consider where the efforts should be spent right now and a lot of people are suffering tremendously.”

The health department says they do work on a multi-citation process, which also gets reported to the licensing committee. It is through this process that there could be more severe consequences for repeat offenders.

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