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Lawsuit filed by Middleton coffee shop moved to federal court

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The civil lawsuit filed by a Middleton coffee shop will now be heard in federal court.

Helbachs Cafe LLC filed the suit in Dane County Circuit Court Monday against the City Madison, Dane County, Public Health Madison Dane County Director Janel Heinrich, Assistant City Attorney Marci Paulsen and PHMDC's Environmental Health Supervisor Bonnie Koenig.

Wednesday, attorneys for the defendants filed a notice of removal, moving the case to U.S. District Court. A federal statute allows a defendant to move the case from state jurisdiction to federal if a civil suit raises questions regarding to constitutional rights.

In this case, Helbachs claims its First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech was violated because the coffee shop expressed its displeasure with Dane County's mask mandate by posting a sign in their window that stated "Mask Free Zone."

The controversy around the coffee shop began July 13, the day Dane County's mask mandate went into effect. A viral social media post circulated showing the sign posted at Helbachs saying "This is a Mask Free Zone. Please remove mask before entering."

Helbachs claims the posting of the sign did not violate Dane County's mask order.

Public health has issued Helbachs three citations and given its notice of intent to revoke its food and beverage license.

The lawsuit asks a judge for a temporary injunction to stop officials from assessing the fines associated with the citations or revoking its licenses.

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Dani Maxwell

Dani Maxwell is the Assistant News Director for 27 WKOW.

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