March 11, 2021

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi
210 MLK Blvd.
Madison, WI 53703

Dear County Executive Parisi:

We are writing today to urge you to open Dane County and end the one year lockdown targeting the hospitality industry. In light of decreasing positive tests and quickly escalating vaccination numbers many other states are moving forward to remove restrictions on business. Wisconsin and Dane County have seen dramatic reductions in positive tests while Wisconsin is leading the Midwest in its vaccination rate.

Dane County is the only county in Wisconsin with onerous capacity restrictions aimed specifically at the hospitality industry. For the last 12 months Dane County restaurants, taverns and supper clubs have been essentially shut down by Dane County’s Order. The loss of jobs and revenue has been catastrophic for those who have made it through the last year, many have not. Small business cannot endure any longer. While Dane County officials have not missed a pay check in the last year my members have exhausted their life savings while trying to survive without income over the last year.

In 71 counties, Wisconsin’s restaurants, taverns and supper clubs are open and following CDC guidelines and the state’s mask order. Wisconsin businesses provide a safe working environment for employees and our customers. It is working, with recent data ranking Wisconsin in the bottom third nationally in Covid cases.

For over a year, without any scientific data or evidence Dane County has only targeted the hospitality industry by closing taverns while restaurants have only been able to operate with very limited capacity. Dane County has destroyed its hospitality industry, with small mom and pop restaurants, supper clubs and taverns being driven out of business. Despite having the most onerous restrictions in the state, the difference between Dane County’s COVID-19 infection rate and its neighboring counties is indiscernible.

Madison has already lost a number of iconic businesses along with the jobs that go with them, not to mention local and state tax revenue. Dane County’s restrictions have only helped to bankrupt an industry. Once bustling State Street is eerily empty and looks like a war zone with boarded store fronts, closed taverns, and empty restaurants and businesses. Since May 2020, every county in the state has been open and operating safely. Our members cannot endure Dane County’s restrictions any longer.  It is time for the County to eliminate its oppressive regulations and allow the hospitality industry to open up and operate safely like the rest of the state.

The hospitality industry has been hit especially hard by the pandemic, with unemployment within the industry hitting as high as 40% at one point. In addition, it is estimated that close to 20% of restaurants and taverns in Wisconsin have closed, with another 30% on the verge of bankruptcy if the situation doesn’t improve quickly. The hospitality industry did not cause this horrific pandemic but for some reason we have become a convenient scapegoat for many in state and local government. Dane County should focus on working with the hospitality industry not driving them out of business.

Please end the Dane County lockdown.


Chris Marsicano, President                           Deb Stueber, President

Tavern League of Wisconsin                         Madison/Dane County Tavern League

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