Wisconsin's Bar Scene Sure Looks Popping

Just minutes after the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers' lockdown, patrons were pounding down pints.
May 14, 2020, 5:18pm
The Iron Hog Saloon in Port Washington, Wisconsin opened its doors as soon as the Supreme Court in the state overturned a stay-at-home order on May 13, 2020.
WISN 12 News

Less than an hour after the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the state’s stay-at-home order, Wisconsinites were packed into Nick’s on 2nd, a bar in Platteville, Wisconsin.

“45 minutes after the bars open in Wisconsin…” reads the caption on a photo Nick’s tweeted out, showing patrons lined up at the bar, tossing back beers. A few drinks in, patrons were pounding their hands on the bar to the beat as “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” by the Hollies played over the speakers.

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On Wednesday, the court sided with Republican lawmakers against the extension of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order. The state has had more than 10,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and over 400 deaths, according to CDC data. Though new cases are falling in New York, the epicenter of the global pandemic, cases are on the rise in other parts of the country.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin was undeterred by all that. They advised the bars in the state that the court’s decision means all Wisconsin bars can “open immediately.”

And open immediately they did.

The Tavern League advised bar employees to wear masks and to reduce capacity so that patrons could observe social distancing. It seems that not every bar in the state that opened up was following those guidelines.

At the Iron Hog Saloon in Port Washington, bar goers weren’t wearing masks. They told the local ABC affiliate that it should be their choice whether or not they have to wear one.

“After my employees haven’t been paid now in two months, I had to look out for them and their families, and I had to look out for my business,” Chad Arnt, the owner of the bar, told the local news station.

Governor Evers issued a stay-at-home order in mid-March, as the virus was spreading through the country. He’d begun formulating plans to allow some businesses to reopen, but when Evers tried to extend that order to May 26, the Republicans in the state legislature objected. And though the order was overturned on a 4–3 vote of the court based on a technicality, some of the justices on the bench voiced their skepticism of the lockdown.

“This comprehensive claim to control virtually every aspect of a person’s life is something we normally associate with a prison, not a free society governed by the rule of law,” Justice Daniel Kelly wrote in his opinion.

Justice Rebecca Dallet wrote a scathing dissenting opinion: “This decision will undoubtedly go down as one of the most blatant examples of judicial activism in this court’s history,” she wrote. “And it will be Wisconsinites who pay the price.”

Evers said he was hoping to work with Republicans on a plan to reopen the state’s economy. This decision, however, “turns the state to chaos,” he told the New York Times.

“Folks, deadly viruses don’t wait for politicians and bureaucrats to settle their differences or promulgate rules,” Evers said in a tweet following the ruling. “And just because the Supreme Court says it’s okay to open, doesn’t mean that science does.”

Wisconsin isn’t the only state where opposition to the stay-at-home orders is building up. There have been lawsuits filed against the stay-home orders in California, Illinois, Michigan, Colorado and Kentucky. None of the litigation has successfully overturned an order in any state other than Wisconsin.

Cover: The Iron Hog Saloon in Port Washington, Wisconsin opened its doors as soon as the Supreme Court in the state overturned a stay-at-home order on May 13, 2020. (Photo: WISN 12 News)