'Don't Let Us Become Florida Or Texas,' WI Business Owners Urge

Scott Anderson

MILWAUKEE, WI — Owners of more than 70 Milwaukee businesses sent a letter to city officials this week, imploring them to require face coverings amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin.

In the letter issued Tuesday, business owners are calling for the Mayor and City Council to require that face coverings be required by customers and staff in restaurants, bars, stores and public buildings to help prevent COVID-19 transmission.

The letter starts with a headline urging Barrett and Johnson "please don't let us become Florida or Texas. We ask you to please issue a mandatory mask rule for Milwaukee now." Patch reports from Florida indicate the state has seen a "staggering" increase in COVID-19 cases. Another Patch report from Texas shows that the Lone Star State is setting records for new COVID-19 cases as well.

In the letter, business owners argue that mandating masks is "critical to the survival of our businesses."

Some businesses that operate in Wisconsin already mandate masks be worn by customers and staff. The Milwaukee Public Market in Downtown Milwaukee, and Menards, which has locations across Wisconsin, already have such a requirement.

Notable businesses who signed the letter include: the Bartolotta Restaurant Group, Fiserv Forum, Colectivo Coffee, The Jazz Estate, the Surg Restaurant Group, The Pabst Theater Group, Marcus Investments, Zarletti, the Mandel Group and OnMilwaukee.

At present, no Wisconsin city or local municipality has a unilateral face-covering ordinance on the books.

Here is the full text of the letter that was sent to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Cavalier Johnson:

We call on you, as the City of Milwaukee’s top elected officials, to immediately require the wearing of masks by all patrons and workers in city public spaces, including stores, theaters, museums, and restaurants and bars (while not consuming food or beverage).

We are the owners and promoters of Milwaukee businesses serving more than a million customers a year and employing tens of thousands of people, all whose health and safety deserve the protection of a mask requirement. A city mask rule is also critical to the survival of our businesses.

Currently more than 20 states require face masks be worn, including nearby Illinois.

Hundreds of cities in America have mandated that face masks must be worn in public, including Los Angeles, New York City, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, the Florida Keys, Raleigh, Denver, Boulder, Houston, Kansas City and Charleston.

Medical professionals, health officials and scientists say that wearing face masks is vital to helping prevent the spread of the deadly Covid-19 and is the #1 preventative measure we can take besides staying at home. Masks help prevent a wearer from infecting others. But mask wearers—including our customers and employees—are not protected if others don’t wear masks.

Without a city mandate, many customers will not be willing to come to our businesses. Compliance with requirements a business may establish will be inconsistent at best. Our employees can’t be assured of a safe work environment. And the risk is much higher for new outbreaks, which could result in new stay-at-home orders that put us out of business for good.

Taking this measure will prevent us from becoming like Houston or Florida. These areas opened up without public masking policies and have seen spikes in cases and even regressions in re-opening. With Wisconsin seeing an increase in Covid-19 cases, now is the time to act. Let’s have Milwaukee shine, and truly become an example for our state and the nation of how to do this safely.

This is our city. People deserve to be safe here when supporting and working at Milwaukee businesses. We urge you to promptly put a mask order in place along with physical distancing requirements, until health professionals say these practices are no longer needed.

This article originally appeared on the Milwaukee Patch