‘It hurts us’: Bar, restaurant owners react to judge reinstating 25% capacity limit

JANESVILLE, Wis.– A judge’s ruling is shaping how bars and restaurants will look for the next couple of weeks.

A Barron County judge reinstated Gov. Tony Evers’ emergency order to limit capacity of bars and restaurants to 25%. The Tavern League of Wisconsin fought the order in court and lost.

That ruling feels personal to Kevin Riley.

“They’re knocking down all the small guys,” Riley said.

Riley owns Riley’s Sports Bar and Grill in Downtown Janesville, where he said capacity rules have made this year especially difficult.

“Absolutely, it hurts us,” Riley said. “It hurts the working people out there, too.”

The governor’s latest rule, which a judge upheld Monday, limits capacity to 25%. Riley has already been limiting crowds at his bar.

“I don’t want to break any rules. I don’t want anybody getting sick in here, and I don’t want my bar to be shut down for that reason either,” Riley said.

Riley didn’t feel the need for Evers to make this rule that significantly impacts his industry.

“I’m for what the cause is, but I’m not for him just shutting down one individual sector of the state, and that’s the tavern league and the restaurant industry,” Riley said.

“This critically important ruling will help us prevent the spread of the virus by restoring limits on public gatherings,” Evers said in a statement.

Riley said limiting public gatherings should happen across the board, not just to bars and restaurants.

“We are obviously disappointed in the ruling and the catastrophic effects is will continue to have on small businesses across Wisconsin,” Tavern League of Wisconsin President Chris Marsicano said in a statement.

The order is in effect until Nov. 6. Breaking it could cost establishments $500.