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Wisconsin Spotlight  | June 9, 2020

MADISON — First the lockdowns, then the looting. 

The combination of overreaching government stay-at-home orders and the rioting amid protests against police brutality have knocked out businesses on Madison’s iconic State Street. 

Forty of 100 State Street businesses surveyed say they will likely not reopen. The poll was conducted by the Central Business Improvement District, which intends to survey all 152 business on this pedestrian artery connecting the University of Wisconsin-Madison to the State Capitol.

“It will be devastating. It will change us,” Tiffany Kenney, BID’s executive director, told the Wisconsin State Journal. “It’s really a complex story and hard to make just about this one time,” she said, referring to the criminal damage. 

Actually, it’s a pretty easy cause and effect. In March, Gov. Tony Evers issued a sweeping statewide order locking down much of the state in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. The stay-at-home oder closed all “nonessential business” like retailers and restaurants to in-person sales. In essence, the order closed down shopping-rich districts like State Street.  

Before Evers’ lockdown expired, the governor’s Department of Health Services Secretary-designee, Andrea Palm, issued an extended lockdown order that wasn’t set to expire in late May. A couple of weeks before the ordered ended, the state Supreme Court declared it invalid. But that didn’t stop Madison’s big government leaders from issuing their own stay-at-home order, a decision that kept local businesses in mothballs longer. 

Tutto Pasta is open and staved off damage because its owner, Joe Perkins, and staff members stood guard over the Italian restaurant during the worst of the riots. 

Perkins told Empower Wisconsin last week that the lockdown was “just brutal,” with sales at his restaurant at 10 percent of what they were before the stay-at-home orders. And now it seems the rioters and looters are trying to finish off the dying businesses. 

“People aren’t going down to State Street,” he said. “It’s a disaster down here now.” 

Perkins’ business neighbor, the Triangle Market, remained closed late last week. The convenience store co-owner Ashim Malla told Empower Wisconsin it would be days, if not weeks, before he and his wife will be able to re-open. He couldn’t talk Thursday. He was cleaning up before going to a second job.  

“It’s all our hard work, all hours we put in just to make some money, do something here,” he said. “And right in front of our eyes they were like threatening us and smiling and saying there was nothing we could do.”

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