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The pain Evers caused small business

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers is excited about the 100-plus small business owners who support his campaign for re-election.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we need to keep doing what’s right for our small businesses,” Evers tweeted this week.

It’s remarkable how many things Evers has done so wrong for small businesses.

The governor should meet Chad Arndt, one of thousands of Wisconsin small business owners hurt by his far left policies and unnecessarily destructive COVID lockdown orders. Arndt said he won’t be voting for the Democrat, and he knows a lot of independent business owners — including many Democrats — who won’t be, either.

The stakes, he says, are simply too high.

“If things don’t change this coming November, I think we’re in for a lot more hurt than what people think is coming,” Arndt said.

Canceling a living

As the pandemic struck in March 2020, the Evers administration issued a statewide stay-at-home order that closed schools, public places and so-called “non-essential” businesses. Arndt’s Iron Hog Saloon in Port Washington was among the restaurants, bars, retailers, beauty salons, gyms and myriad other establishments prohibited from conducting in-person business. Bars and restaurants could only provide carryout food service. It wasn’t enough business to survive.

The Iron Hog Saloon took a big hit. Arndt tried to keep his full-time employees working. They had families to support. Nearly two months into the lockdown, Arndt made headlines announcing that he would open his restaurant and bar in defiance of Evers’ lockdown order.

“We will be taking all precautions with keeping everything sanitized the best we can and distancing people that are together, Arndt wrote on Facebook. “Please If you don’t feel like you are ready to come out yet don’t! I will respect your feelings and decision to stay home and self-quarantine, I am asking you to please respect mine to not. I need to not only make sure I can keep making a living but I need to make sure my employees and [their] families can as well.”

The day Arndt planned to open, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a 4-3 ruling overturned the Evers’ order. The administration’s unilateral act violated state law, and certainly raised some key constitutional questions.

Unnecessary pain

For Denis Navratil and his wife Dimple, the stay-at-home orders were unnecessarily destructive. Their specialty home decor accessory and personalized gift store in Racine was first hit under Evers’ statewide lockdown and hit again when the city slapped its own stringent mandates in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.

The small business owners lost so much, and for nothing.

Reams of research, including an expansive study from Johns Hopkins University, found the lockdowns “had little to no effect on COVID mortality.” That fact was clear to most reasonable people early on in the pandemic, but Evers, his health czar, and like-minded, power-grabbing local officials insisted we follow their bad science.

On WISN 12’s UpFront last weekend, Evers’ stubbornly stuck to the tired old line, refusing to acknowledge the lockdown was a mistake.

“Following the science is a problem I caused?” the governor asked incredulously. “I didn’t bring coronavirus to the state of Wisconsin. We had to react to it. We followed the science.”

Denis Navratil said the stay-at-home orders may have been well-intentioned at first. The fear of the deadly disease was powerful, much was unknown. But demanding small retailers close while big box stores were allowed to stay open didn’t seem fair or make a lot of sense. The virus didn’t discriminate between Target, Walmart, Home Depot and small jewelry stores or mom and pop shops. Scientists knew that.

“I think the lockdown stuff has not stood the test of time,” Navratil said. “It was a poor policy decision that didn’t seem to do anything to stop the COVID transmission, and it’s hard to argue it didn’t cause financial harm.”

The Navratils filed a federal civil rights and defamation lawsuit against the city of Racine and its far left mayor, Cory Mason, alleging they were denied COVID-19 relief grants because they attended a protest against the statewide lockdown orders in April 2020. Mason said the grants were handed out through a competitive process, but the lawsuit alleges Mason was playing political enforcer for Evers in an act of retribution.

“He (Mason) told me it had to do with compliance. I said, ‘what compliance? My store was closed until Gov. Evers told me I can open,’ and he said,’ No, it was about being at the rally,'” Dimple told TMJ4 News in June. 2020.

‘Anti-business governor’

The Navratils know they’re among the lucky ones. A lot of Wisconsin small businesses didn’t survive COVID and government policies that drastically limited their operations. A report by Harvard University in April 2021 showed 29 percent of Wisconsin small businesses were still closed compared to January 2020, a month before the pandemic reached Wisconsin.

Scott Manley, executive vice president for Government Relations at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, said Evers’ unconstitutional lockdown orders are part of a long list of policies that has hurt business in his over 3 1/2 years in office. That list includes $1 billion in proposed tax hikes in Evers’ first budget and a veto of a Republican-led tax cut as one of his first acts as governor. The Evers administration sought to tax forgivable PPP loans given out to the small businesses he forced to close, and the governor’s liberal initiatives have helped stoke soaring costs for businesses statewide.

“This has been the most anti-business governors we’ve had in the modern era of politics in this state,” Manley said. “There’s no questions businesses know where Tony Evers stands on the issues important to the business community, and that’s why we support (Republican candidate) Tim Michels for governor.”

Arndt’s Iron Hog Saloon was destroyed in an electrical fire in February. He’s considering rebuilding next spring. He may have the time as his construction business struggles amid ever-rising materials costs.

Arndt said Evers has failed Wisconsin in a number of ways. He points to the riots in Kenosha that damaged or destroyed dozens of businesses and properties as Evers played liberal politics and vilified police.

“Evers never had my vote but he lost my respect totally in Kenosha,” he said.

Empower Wisconsin | Sept. 14, 2022

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2 thoughts on “The pain Evers caused small business

  • Evers govern-ship has not been good for Wisconsin “folks”, as he likes to call us. His blindness to the impact of the extended lockdowns, partial openings (what business can survive at 25%?) really hurt small businesses all across Wisconsin. This “bandaid” for small business he is trying to appeal to voters with, is just too late. How many of these businesses are new and not the ones that went under during the ‘pandemic’? Don’t forget the grants available for small businesses were not given to existing struggling businesses on State St., but were held in reserve for future small businesses with people of color. Not only was that a slap in the face, it was a kick out the door! This is the same kind of bandaid applied when the suicide rate of students doubled in Wisconsin. A computer app was added to the online learning sites to detect from handwriting if a student might be suicidal. Vote Evers out!

  • Where I live, most of the small businesses basically told Governor (N)evers to go ‘pound sand’ and stayed opened in spite of “being (so-called) ‘safe'”. They’re surviving.

    Funny how that worked out…

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