By Miles Maguire
The Oshkosh Police Department is prepared to enforce the governor’s emergency order closing bars and restaurants as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“We are going to go simply and request compliance from the bars and restaurant owners and the taverns,” said Chief Dean Smith. Officers will say, “Everyone knows we’re in difficult times, and we just need you to close up,” Smith explained.
“We’re going to drive around, and we’re hoping that bars are going to close up and follow what everyone knows is out there,” he said. “If they don’t comply over a period of time today, this evening, they may be subject to … penalty.”
Owners who do not comply face a misdemeanor charge that could bring a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail, or both, he said.
He said he had been in contact with the Tavern League and several individual bar owners.
“We just want to do the right thing. We’re going to nicely and politely ask them to shut down.”
The order was issued earlier today by the Department of Health Services. It prohibits "mass gatherings of 10 people or more to mitigate the spread of COVID-19."
Restaurants can remain open to provide takeout and delivery services.
Initially it looked like enforcement would fall to local health officials, but after consultation with the district attorney's office, the Oshkosh police determined they could take on that responsibility.
Smith noted the uniqueness of the present situation. “I never thought in my time coming to Oshkosh that I would be responsible potentially for closing bars down in Wisconsin.”