The three-month shutdown of restaurants and bars, along with the cancellation of Opening Day tailgates at Miller Park and beer-infused Summerfest, have left Wisconsinites eager to reconnect over drinks.
But the bar scene we’re used to is filled with coronavirus risk factors: crowds, loud talking and singing, long stretches of time spent indoors. Not to mention the fact that even the most well-intentioned people, if they get drunk, may forget or disregard safety precautions designed to stop the spread.
Bars were among the first Wisconsin businesses forced to close in March in an attempt to curb the pandemic. On May 13, the day the state Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order and allowed businesses re-open, people headed out to reclaim their favorite barstools. In Madison, limited indoor capacity led to long lines outside with little social distance. Cases in Dane County spiked, and health officials banned indoor bar service there again July 1.
Other states are facing similar challenges. But few — if any — are places where bars and the drinking culture is so intertwined with the state's identity.
In 2017, the most recent year available, the state had one liquor license for every 339 people, or 17,100 licenses in all. According to the 2018 federal Behavioral Risk Factor Survey, 62.8% of Wisconsin adults said yes when asked if they had consumed at least one alcoholic drink in the past 30 days.
That was higher than every state except Massachusetts.