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Protest pushing for reopening economy shuts down Madison businesses

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A protest Friday on Madison's Capitol Square in opposition to Governor Evers' stay at home order and advocating for a faster track to reopening businesses shut down many downtown restaurants and shops.

Those operations were already operating in a limited capacity with curb side pick up and delivery.

Tami Lax owns both Harvest and The Old Fashioned on the square. Lax tells 27 News she felt compelled to suspend operations during the hours of the protest over fear her personnel and customers could be exposed to the coronavirus as a result of the large, demonstrating crowd.

"I find it extremely irresponsible and foolish at this time with the amount of people that are dying (from coronavirus) every day," Lax says.

Lax says she shut down as the protest played out on a key day for turning any profit at The Old Fashioned.

"It's Friday fish fry, basically when we do the majority of our business for the whole week," she says.

Dan Row lives in an apartment two blocks from the Capitol Square and says during the pandemic, pedestrians downtown have done their best to socially distance. "There's been a lot of acknowledging, knowing looks as people do a weird dance on the sidewalk as people give each other room," he says. But Row says social distancing appeared to be largely ignored during the protest.

Row's willingness to do an interview with a 27 News crew as protesters began streaming toward the Capitol in cars an on foot was a concession. "This is the only time I'm going outside probably all weekend," Rows says.

On the Capitol Square, Square Wine Co. owner Andrea Hillsey locked her store's door to prevent any customers from coming inside to pick up a wine or beer order. "What we're doing is the farthest we've gone as far as safety precautions," Hillsey says.

But Hillsey continued to run her curb side pick up service, with some customers likely to make their pick up in the store's back alley.

"You just treat people with respect, whether it's homeless person in a bench or a protester, usually you're okay," she says.

Row says he respects the protesters' right to free speech, but fears it could infringe on the right to protect oneself from becoming infected with COVID-19.

"If we see a (case) spike downtown, it's hard not to suspect it's because of people who are going out unnecessarily like this."



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Tony Galli

Reporter, WKOW

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