Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON - Bar owners in Wisconsin faced a choice Tuesday — announce last call just as happy hour was getting going on St. Patrick's Day, one of the busiest days of the year, or let business continue for the night, in defiance of the governor's order to close in order to blunt an oncoming wave of coronavirus.
The guidance from the industry’s powerful lobbying organization: Keep your doors open if you must.
"That is not realistic as thousands of taverns and restaurants across the state have people in their establishments for St. Patrick’s Day celebration," officials with The Tavern League of Wisconsin wrote to its members about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. "To kick people out in three hours would pose serious issues."
The league said in the email the governor's office had initially advised them the closure would begin Wednesday evening, the day after St. Patrick's Day and that bar owners already had that advice in hand. The league suggested a last-minute order to close within a few hours would cause problems.
"Use your best judgement," the group wrote.
Spokesman Scott Stenger said the email was not meant to suggest not to follow the governor's order.
"No — we never said not to follow the order," he said. "We are all following it and are looking to get through this and keep everyone safe."
Evers on Monday called for limiting people in bars and restaurants to 50 people or to 50% capacity, whichever is less. As Evers was relaying the order, President Donald Trump issued a recommendation of limiting gatherings to 10 people.
On Tuesday, Evers ordered the closure of bars and restaurants altogether by that evening.
Evers has issued a number of orders to limit gatherings and interaction between Wisconsin residents in an effort to slow the spread of a virus that can cause serious respiratory illness and even death.
A spokeswoman for Evers declined to comment.