MILWAUKEE — The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s 4-3 ruling to end Gov. Tony Evers’ emergency mask mandate could bring major changes to Wisconsin restaurants.
“They need to make some calculated decisions on what that means for their facility,” said Kristine Hillmer, President and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.
Hillmer said her organization has never taken a pro-mask or anti-mask stance. But, she said there are important things to remember for a lot of restaurants.
First, there are some Wisconsin cities and counties with their own mask ordinances. Those are still in place despite the state Supreme Court’s ruling.
There is also guidance from OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“They say that employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace free from recognized hazards,” Hillmer said. "Right now, COVID is a recognized hazard.”
That could limit a restaurant’s liability protection.
“When you say it limits their liability protection, that means it could open them up to potential lawsuits,” Spectrum News 1’s Andrew Havranek asked.
"If they do practices that are not recognized as being safe, then they open themselves up for that potential liability,” Hillmer said.
One Milwaukee man spoke to Spectrum News 1 anonymously, and said it should be left to the restaurants and customers’ personal choice.
“I think people should wear masks everywhere they go,” he said. "Saying it’s unconstitutional […] I do believe that I think it’s wrong for the government to force people to wear a mask"
Peter Layde, who also lives in Milwaukee, disagreed with the court’s decision, especially as more variants become the more prevalent strain of COVID-19.
“It’s very difficult when you do it on a city by city basis,” Layde said. “If you travel to some other city, do you know what their ordinance is? It’s much easier if you implement it on a statewide basis.”
The Wisconsin Restaurant Association urges those who want to eat in restaurants to follow the guidelines the restaurant is following, and suggests checking the restaurant’s website before they go there.