Coffee shop sues over local mask order

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A coffee shop in a suburb of Madison that declared itself a "mask-free zone" is suing local officials over an ordinance requiring the wearing of face coverings inside businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Helbachs Coffee Roasters and Kitchen, located in downtown Middleton, filed the lawsuit Monday in Dane County Circuit Court against the city, county and local officials who attempted to enforce the mask ban.

Dane County's mask ordinance took effect on July 13. A statewide mask ordinance took effect on Aug. 1. Helbachs is only challenging the local ordinance.

The lawsuit is the first in Dane County to take on the legality of the mask ordinance. It comes after a federal judge last month struck another lawsuit down on a technicality that challenged a variety of other local ordinances related to the coronavirus.

Helbachs caught the attention of Dane County officials after a sign posted July 13 on its front door declaring it to be a "mask-free zone" was posted on social media. The coffee shop soon became the center of a debate over the efficacy of wearing masks, with mask opponents praising Helbachs for its stand while others accused the business of being irresponsible.

Helbachs was issued three citations for violating a public health order. Helbachs now faces revocation of its food and drink license because of its refusal to abide by the order. A hearing on Public Health Madison Dane County's motion to revoke the license is set for Aug. 25.

Helbachs has established a GoFundMe account to pay for the legal battle. As of Tuesday, it had raised about $10,700 out of its $50,000 goal.

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