'Stand for freedom:' Brookfield bar owner's decision to stay open could mean fine, charge

BROOKFIELD -- The owner of The Saloon on Calhoun could face fines or even a criminal charge for staying open on St. Patrick's Day, Tuesday, March 17, defying the order from Governor Tony Evers that all bars and restaurants close except for carryout or delivery due to the coronavirus. The governor's order also banned gatherings of 10 or more -- an order police and prosecutors said they have the authority to enforce.

"It's after 5 o'clock, so as of right now, you all are officially rebels like us," said Dave Dayler, owner.

While most bars and restaurants shut down on Tuesday, the party continued at The Saloon on Calhoun.

"Try to stay in a group of less than 10, and six feet apart from each other," said Dayler "I'm not being facetious."

Dave Dayler

Dave Dayler

Hours after Governor Evers' order banning gatherings of more than 10, FOX6 News counted as many as 31 in the bar.

"We're going to keep this thing going because you all have made a conscious choice to be here," said Dayler. "You understand what's at risk."

Even in the face of a global pandemic and local detection of community transmission, Dayler said he was fighting for freedom.

"People are going to die," said Dayler. "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."

The Saloon on Calhoun

That defiance could come at a price. The Waukesha County district attorney told FOX6 News state statutes (323.16) give local police the authority to enforce emergency orders.

"If you don't want to go, we're not gonna go," said Dayler. "The first person that leaves is me in handcuffs."

Failure to comply (323.28) could lead to fines (325.25) or even a misdemeanor criminal charge.

"So if I have to stand as a sole entrepreneur, proprietor, concerned citizen, freedom, whatever it is, I want to stand for freedom," said Dayler.

The Saloon on Calhoun

After FOX6 broke the story Tuesday night, Brookfield police showed up and The Saloon agreed to shut down.

Police didn't issue any citations but said they would be sending reports to the local licensing authority and the Waukesha County district attorney.