City leaders propose $5K fines for bars, restaurants not complying

City leaders are discussing potential fine increases for bars and restaurants that define COVID-19 health guidelines.

This comes as health officials are reporting a spike in cases in Milwaukee.

“If the fine is steeper there would be more incentive to get voluntary compliance which is really what we need to occur,” Claire Evers of the City of Milwaukee Health Department.

Claire Evers

Positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the city of Milwaukee. Cases are currently standing at just over 35,000.

“A $500 citation is not an incentive for many businesses to comply if they don’t want to,” Evers said.

During Thursday's public safety and health committee meeting, city leaders and health officials discussed the possibility of raising the current fines for bars and restaurants that break current COVID-19 guidelines. Health officials say they have so far written between 5 to 10 citations. 

“If you’re following the right thing and following your plan just keep going and keep working with us. If you are not we will probably find out and make a change,” Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic

Pending final approval from the mayor and common council, the fines could increase from $500 to up to $5,000 per violation.

A business could face a maximum accumulated fine of up to $20,000. 

“There would be a citation for each violation we have had situations where an operator may be in violation of both the mask ordinance and social distancing,” said Evers.

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Health officials also discussed the current demands facing the city’s 186 contact tracers. The health department is asking those testing positive to help with contact tracing if possible.

"Again, whenever the date is given to us, we know those first few rounds of vaccines are going to be focused on health care workers,” said Marlaina Jackson of the Milwaukee Health Department. 

COVID-19 Testing

And with news of a potential vaccine being made available, the health department is working on a plan for distribution.

“We are using our flu vaccine clinics in the health department as a pilot on ‘how do we move individuals through a vaccination site quickly,’” Jackson said.

There was also an update on the search for a permanent city health commissioner. The hope is a candidate will be narrowed down by the first week of January.


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