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Restaurants, bars adjust to new restrictions after spike in COVID-19 cases

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MADISON (WKOW) -- After a steep increase in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Dane County, restaurants and bars are adjusting to new restrictions after the Phase 2 plan was amended.

Phase 2 of the 'Forward Dane' reopening plan now has alterations:

  • Private gatherings are reduced to 10 people
  • No standing service at bars and restaurants
  • In order to be served, customers must be seated. They can only dine in with members of their own household.

Neil Hansen, manager at the Come Back Inn, said he's not surprised by the new guidelines, but is taking them seriously.

"We're very active about it because we are here for the long term, and we want to create a space that doesn't hurt our chances in the future," said Hansen.

Since the announcement, Hansen said they've made adjustments. Darts and pool tables are closed, and they continue to have a manager on duty at all times.

"We've had very little trouble," he said. "But should there be someone ... standing up, we're going to actively ask them to take a seat."

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said city officials will also be stepping up enforcement by having public health officials visit establishments, some at random, to make sure rules are being followed.

"We are already contacting businesses to inform them about the new restrictions and making sure they know how to comply," said Rhodes-Conway.

Public Health Madison & Dane County said many of the new cases are associated with businesses near the UW-Madison campus, and a majority of new positive cases are people in their 20s.

"To me, it's a very dangerous situation where people are consuming alcohol and relaxing their vigilance against the virus," said Rhodes-Conway.

Madison's Assistant Attorney Marci Paulsen said they will be more strict in enforcement, especially for those with multiple complaints.

"Say we get pictures and physical evidence where hundreds of people are at a bar without wearing masks, we reach out to that establishment," Paulson said. "And if they say we don't care about your order, then, in that situation it's straight forward with a summons or citation."

Officials said each case will be handled differently, depending on how compliant businesses are to a verbal warning. If complaints continue, a citation will be issued, which starts a $376 and increases for subsequent offenses.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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