Court: Mask order didn’t violate shop’s free speech rights

Helbachs Coffee Mask Free Zone Sign
File photo.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal appeals court says Dane County health officials didn’t violate free speech protections when they cited a Middleton cafe for advertising itself as a “mask-free zone” during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Helbachs Cafe posted a sign in July 2020 saying the shop was a “mask-free zone” in defiance of a county mask mandate.

The county cited the cafe three times for failing to comply with the mandate. The shop lost its lease.

Helbachs responded with a lawsuit alleging the county retaliated against the cafe for exercising free speech rights.

A three-judge panel from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that Helbachs failed to show any evidence of retaliation.