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Public Health clarifies order: No indoor gatherings — mass or otherwise
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Public Health clarifies order: No indoor gatherings — mass or otherwise

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After sparking confusion about what, exactly, is not allowed under a new order issued Tuesday, Public Health Madison and Dane County clarified Wednesday that its new ban on “mass” indoor gatherings effectively means residents are barred from getting together indoors with anybody they don’t live with — no matter the size of the group.

The order that went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday continues all of the previous restrictions announced in September, including a mask mandate and limiting most business capacity to 50%.

But it also moves from allowing indoor gatherings of up to 10 people to prohibiting any “mass gathering inside,” and defines a “mass gathering” as “a planned event with a large number of individuals in attendance, such as a concert, festival, meeting, training, conference, performance, show or sporting event.”

While most WIAA football programs have opted to play a shortened fall schedule due to COVID-19, most Madison-area high schools — including the entire Big Eight Conference and every Rock Valley Conference school except Madison Edgewood — have committed to an alternative spring season, leaving their stadiums eerily empty this fall.

Some residents were confused about whether that meant any indoor gathering is verboten, even having one friend over for coffee or a contractor finishing a job. Others asked why Public Health is allowing restaurants to offer indoor dining up to 25% of their capacity, but making it illegal to visit other people's homes for a meal.

On Wednesday, Public Health spokeswoman Sarah Mattes confirmed that the new order prohibits gatherings of any size indoors except with people you live with.

But that doesn't apply to having a contractor come over to, say, fix a broken furnace, or a regularly scheduled visit from a home-cleaning service. Such circumstances are not "gatherings"; they're "services," and thus allowed.

People are allowed to dine at restaurants but not at other people's homes, according to Public Health, because the order requires that only members of the same household can sit together in restaurants, and must be six feet apart from other groups of diners.

Public Health provided a hint about the new order's intent on Tuesday when it wrote on its website that the new order “prohibits indoor gatherings of any size,” even though the order itself doesn’t phrase it that way.

That order, Dane County Emergency Order #10, describes what sorts of events might qualify as mass gatherings but doesn’t provide a number below which it is no longer a “mass” gathering and just a gathering. Instead, it just says any such gathering is prohibited inside and limited to 10 people outside, with physical distancing.

Mattes said the agency is “working on some clarifying language" to help people abide by the order, but wasn't sure when it would be released.

10 Madison restaurants with enhanced outdoor seating thanks to city’s Streatery program

10 Madison restaurants with enhanced outdoor seating thanks to city's Streatery program

Outdoor seating has been a lifeline this summer for some restaurants lucky enough to have it, but it comes with challenges, and worse, an approaching end date with colder weather on the way.

About 87 restaurant and bar owners are taking advantage of the city's "Streatery" program, modeled after efforts around the world to help restaurants during COVID-19 restrictions by helping them increase their outdoor dining areas by extending into streets, parking spaces, parking lots and alleys. Twenty-six other applications are pending in Madison.

The efforts are in response to public heath data that suggests that al fresco dining is a safer option than eating indoors in restaurants. Or as Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich put it, "a restaurant patio is a calculated risk."

Here are 10 Madison restaurants and bars taking part in Streatery.

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The Ohio Tavern has seating for 22 outside the bar at 224 Ohio Ave. Under the city's Streatery program, it was able to extend its outdoor seat…

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Brasserie V, 1923 Monroe St., has had its outdoor seating since late July with four tables on the sidewalk in front, and six tables in back. T…

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On the 1900 block of Atwood Avenue a Streatery cafe zone uses beer barrels and lattice to create patio seating extending into parking spots wi…

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Ogden's North Street Diner, 560 North St., has six tables seating as many as 16 people behind the restaurant, which serves breakfast and lunch…

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Canteen, 111 S. Hamilton St., has 23 tables which can seat 54 people. Customers order at a pick-up window on the Carroll Street side. Canteen …

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"Madison's Official Birthday Place," the Nitty Gritty, 223 N. Frances St., has added six tables on the Frances Street side of the building tha…

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Original Pancake House, 5518 University Ave., is using six of its parking spaces for outdoor seating. Its 13 outdoor tables are now covered wi…

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The owners of Daisy Cafe & Cupcakery, 2827 Atwood Ave., spent $17,000 repaving their parking lot, and $3,000 on outdoor furniture, and can…

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Bierock, 2911 N. Sherman Ave., has been using sidewalk space in the Northside TownCenter for outdoor dining under the Streatery program. The p…

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107 State is on the top block of State Street in what was formerly Capital Tap Haus, Wisconsin Brewing Tap Haus, and briefly Freiburg Tap Haus…

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