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MADISON – Government Tony Evers’ limits on public gatherings and the number of customers that bars and restaurants can serve at once were again blocked in a Friday ruling by a state appellate court.

A panel of three judges in the northern third district ruled 2-1 that the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Evers’ order to curb coronavirus have “shown a sufficient likelihood of success due to an appeal” and reintroduced a temporary injunction imposed by a lower court and later removed by a Barron County judge.

This means that the rules that Evers sought to limit public interaction have been a ping-pong ball – to and fro since he issued the order two and a half weeks ago.

Friday’s decision temporarily blocks the boundaries until the appeal is completed. It came after an Amery bar and an anti-abortion group joined a lawsuit originally filed by a Sawyer County bar and the Tavern League of Wisconsin.

The Tavern League chose not to appeal the Barron County referee’s decision to reinstate Evers’ order after a Sawyer County umpire temporarily suspended it. But now Miki Jo’s Mix Up bar and Pro-Life Wisconsin are continuing the case on appeal.

Evers’ order, which limits the number of customers in bars and restaurants to 25% of their official capacity, expires during the first week of November. The governor has not said whether he will expand the borders.

During the hearing on Monday, a lawyer for the Mix Up bar said the order resulted in a 25% drop in business because customers chose to stay away.

Pro-Life Wisconsin is suing because the order limits the number of people they can invite to fundraisers, a lawyer said Monday.

The lawsuit claims that Evers should have used a legislative process called rules to enforce borders, a route that gives a Republican-controlled committee a veto.

It also leaves Wisconsin without any state restrictions on public interaction or collection sizes at a time when Wisconsin’s cases of coronavirus are exploding.

More than 4,300 new infections were reported Friday by the Department of Health Services and 43 new deaths.

More than 1,200 people are in hospitals with the virus, and two are in a new state field hospital that Evers opened in recent weeks to provide emergency care to hospitals in or near capacity in the northeastern part of the state.

Contact Molly Beck at molly.beck@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MollyBeck.

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