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Business owners 'ecstatic' after capacity limits lifted in Racine

Business owners 'ecstatic' after capacity limits lifted in Racine

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Walking along Douglas Avenue (copy)

Since late July 2020 when this photo was taken along Douglas Avenue, masks were required to be worn by healthy people over the age of 4 in the City of Racine when social distancing (i.e. staying six feet apart from other people who aren't in your household) was not possible. While that requirement remains in place, it is one of only a handful left in the city, since on Thursday businesses were again allowed to operate at 100% capacity.

RACINE — On Thursday, 13 months and two weeks after the first COVID-19 restrictions were put in place in Wisconsin, capacity limits were lifted in Racine.

Only a couple restrictions are left in the city, like the wearing of masks when indoors and how government buildings are not open for the public as normal. Parks and golf courses are open, playgrounds can be played on and organized sports are allowed to be played, and concerts are kicking off again.

The reasons cited for the loosening are that the summer months, when people are more likely to gather outdoors than in, present fewer risks for the transmission of a virus like the coronavirus. Also, a growing proportion of the public has been vaccinated; as of Thursday, according to state data, 39.2% of Racine County residents have received at least one shot and walk-ins are being accepted at the state-run community-based vaccination clinic at Regency Mall.

Cory Mason in a mask


“Like everyone in the community, I want to move beyond COVID-19 and return to normal life,” Mayor Cory Mason said in a statement. “When I look at the data, I am optimistic that we are moving in the right direction. If we can continue to build momentum, administer more vaccine, and continue to wear masks for just a little while longer, we can beat this virus. We can get parades, festivals, concerts, and all of the events we have missed for more than a year back — but first, we must get vaccinated.”


Dottie-Kay Bowersox


Indoor and outdoor capacity limits have been revoked “in venues and facilities for normal operations as long as 6 feet social distancing can be maintained,” according to an update to the Safer Racine ordinance released by Public Health Administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox early Thursday afternoon.

The updates to the ordinance read, in full:

  • Increases indoor and outdoor capacity limits to 100% capacity in venues and facilities for normal operations as long as 6 feet social distancing can be maintained.
  • For indoor and outdoor mass gatherings and events, the total number of persons allowed on a premise (indoors and outdoors combined) will not exceed the 100% indoor capacity (based on occupancy permit) or 1500 persons (up from 200 persons), whichever is less, and is only permitted if social distancing of 6 feet can be maintained.

The CDC is relaxing guidelines for wearing masks.The agency now says, whether vaccinated or not, you don't need to have one on outside for activities like walking, running or biking. It's also considers it safe for fully vaccinated people to dine outdoors with no mask and dine indoors with a mask. Studies suggest the risk of infection is very low outside. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says vaccinations are the key to getting back to normal safely. "The general guidance is the more and more people who get vaccinated the safer the more you'll have more people who are safer without masks." 

During the worst days of the pandemic, the health department tightened restrictions on businesses down to 25% of normal operating capacity, which the city argued was necessary as deaths skyrocketed and hospital beds quickly filled up, even if some business owners said the restrictions were excessive

  • to the point of financial ruin.

The majority that survived, however, cheered the return to near normal, keeping safety precautions still in mind.


For Joan Roehre, owner of Social on Sixth, a micro-venue at 324 Sixth St., the cheering was literal: “Woo-hoo!” she said at the news of being able to operate at a fuller capacity.

“I’m ecstatic,” Roehre said. Social on Sixth began with a maximum capacity of 25 people, then it moved up to 37; now the lift will allow her to host events for up to 50 people.

“We’ve been getting calls for reunions, bridal showers, larger events,” Roehre said. The new capacity will also let her even more safely hold a French-themed market she has planned for the summertime.

“People are itching to get out,” Roehre said, noting the Chili Ice Walk that drew crowds to Downtown Racine in February. “Downtown was packed. This is going to boost that more.”

Mike Gosa, owner of Échelon Gallery, 3801 Monarch Drive, said the lift of capacity limits will make an immediate impact on his shoppers.

“The traffic is already there,” Gosa said, “but some people have to wait on their cars and miss out on the styles they want.”

Operating at full capacity will give each customer an equal opportunity to buy the clothing they’re coveting, Gosa said.

Captivate Your Natural Beauty LLC (copy)

Mike Gosa shows off Captivate Your Natural Beauty LLC, which is a nail salon located in the Échelon Gallery, in February.

‘We still need to protect ourselves’

Both business owners, however, remained aware of the restrictions despite the new capacity announced: There would still need to be social distancing and masks in place. Both were in agreement to require masks and social distancing at their businesses.

“The downside is the 3-6 feet of distance,” Gosa said. “It’s hard to keep people at that distance. COVID is still a thing, and we still need to protect ourselves. I’m going to do everything I can to keep everyone safe.”

Roehre agreed: “Am I thrilled about going into packed places? No. But I’m going to be safe about it.”

Kelly Kruse, executive director of the Downtown Racine Corp., said the organization has 65 events already planned for the year. It has “already been safely and aggressively pre-planning events with the anticipation of these restrictions being lifted, as people become vaccinated,” Kruse said. “I am working closely with the merchants, and county and city officials to plan even more safe events that families and visitors can enjoy.”

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