'Fighting for this industry:' Brookfield bar stays open despite Gov. Evers' order to close

BROOKFIELD -- Drinks were still flowing at A.J. O'Brady's in Menomonee Falls until about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 17. Owner Bruce Russell never imagined his Irish pub would be empty on St. Patrick's Day.

Bruce Russell

"It's devastating," Russell said. "Just got a phone call from the police. Thought we could go until five o'clock today. They said, 'It's over now.'"

Six miles away, the party kept on going. The Saloon on Calhoun is known for its free bacon at happy hour. While that was curtailed due to the coronavirus, Dave Dayler, the bar's owner, decided to press on with the St. Patrick's Day revelry; the sign still said "open" hours after the governor's orders to shut down bars and restaurants, banning gatherings of more than 10, went into effect.

"There's a lot of hype," said Dayler. "There's a lot of speculation. There's a lot of fear. Sometimes, the best thing to deal with fear is to be able to go out and keep life normal."

Saloon on Calhoun

The decision to keep the party going appeared to be in direct defiance of Gov. Evers' order to limit public gatherings to fewer than 10 people --  FOX6 News counted 31 at one point -- and for bars and restaurants statewide to shutdown.

Dave Dayler

"He's saying, 'Close,' but he's not saying, 'We're going to support you,'" said Dayler. "He's not going to say, 'Oh, they get their payroll.' I'm fighting for their payrolls. I'm fighting for this industry. I'm fighting for freedom."

Dayler said he is well aware that the coronavirus outbreak is serious, even deadly. But, in his view, there's much more than people's health at stake.

"This does affect people," said Dayler. "People are going to die. We don't want anybody to die, but over 80% get a cough. We're killing our economy, and we're killing our entire industry over a cough."

FOX6 News asked the governor's staff if they had any intentions of enforcing the orders related to large public gatherings and we were referred to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. A message left for the DOJ was not returned.

FOX6 News also reached out to Brookfield police, who would not say whether they were aware the bar remained open Tuesday.