Judge blocks Evers administration's order limiting bar capacity, gatherings

The lawsuit was filed by the Tavern League of Wisconsin in Sawyer County.

Brienna Wagner, center, wears a mask while sitting at an outdoor table with Andy Wagner on Thursday, July 30, in Waukesha. (Angela Major / WPR)

A Sawyer County judge has temporarily blocked an order from the Evers administration limiting public gatherings, and capacity in bars and restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin filed the lawsuit challenging the governor's order Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Judge John Yackel sided with the Tavern League, blocking the emergency health order Wednesday morning and set a court date for Monday.

The order, which went into effect Thursday, requires bars and restaurants across the state to limit capacity to 25% until Nov. 6.

The Tavern League argued the order amounted to "defacto closure." Its lawsuit argues the court should throw out the Evers administration's latest emergency order because it wasn’t created through the emergency rulemaking process, a process requiring state lawmakers to approve any restrictions on people and businesses during the pandemic. Using the process would essentially give the GOP-controlled Legislature veto power over any restrictions.


The Evers administration has argued its powers to act unilaterally to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic haven't expired, because status of the pandemic has changed drastically in Wisconsin. Gov. Tony Evers has issued three states of the emergency responding to the pandemic in Wisconsin since March, which can last for a maximum of 60 days.

Another emergency order from the governor's administration extending the statewide mask mandate is also facing a legal challenge.

The ruling Wednesday comes as the state continues to set records for confirmed cases of COVID-19, deaths and hospitalizations. It also comes a day after the state broke two records for new daily cases reached and deaths reported. Thirty-four deaths were reported and 3,279 new cases.

Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard locally on 91.3 KUWS-FM and at

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