Officials with the University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Tavern League and the Wisconsin Restaurant Association are asking bar and restaurant owners throughout the state to mask mandates and encourage physical distancing as students return to college for the school year.

A joint letter was sent Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, over the signatures of Tommy Thompson, UW-System president, Pete Madland, executive director of the Tavern League, and Kristine Hillmer, president and CEO of the Restaurant Association.

The letter was sent in hopes that businesses will cooperate in reducing the spread of COVID-19 as students start the new academic term.

In the letter, Thompson, Madland and Hillmer asked bar and restaurant owners to:

“Encourage your patrons to maintain physical distance, including by setting capacity limits.

“Enforce a mask mandate inside your establishments and outdoors where applicable.

“Post signs that encourage patrons to wear a mask, watch their distance, and wash their hands.

“Follow other guidance from your local public health departments and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.”

The letter warns the bar and restaurant industries that if the coronavirus continues to spread after the start of the new school term, the UW-System may consider closing in-person classes and offering only online classes.

“We know what these students mean to our university communities and businesses,” Thompson, Madland and Hillmer said in the joint letter.

“We are asking for your help to encourage responsible behavior of our students. Across our country, we have seen the consequences when large numbers of young people congregate in public settings, including bars and restaurants. Those consequences have led to the reversal or suspension of plans to provide in-person instruction.”

Local authorities are not familiar with the recommendations of the UW-System, Tavern League and Restaurant Association, according to Laura Sauve, Barron County health officer.

“We would like to see bars and restaurants following the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation guidelines on social distancing as much as possible,” she said Tuesday, Aug. 26. “This has not changed since those recommendations came out.”