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Madsen's reopens its doors after Health Department OKs its compliance plan
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Madsen's reopens its doors after Health Department OKs its compliance plan

From the Milestones in Nebraska's coronavirus fight series
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Local health officials Tuesday authorized the reopening of Madsen's Bowling & Billiards after determining the previously defiant business owner's operations plan would comply with local coronavirus restrictions.

"I think the matter is, by and large, over,” Madsen's attorney, J.L. Spray, said of the highest-profile dispute over Lincoln's mask mandate.

Madsen's was closed by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department on Saturday over ownership's refusal to abide by the mandate.

To date, the health department has issued four closure orders all within city limits, and Madsen's was the only business to challenge that order. 

The business reopened its doors at its usual time Tuesday morning.

At 11 a.m., roughly a dozen patrons entered the business. A sign on the door encouraged guests to "please follow the mandate set forth by (the Health Department)" but also said "we respect your privacy" if you "cannot wear a mask."

City charges Madsen's for defying closure order

Few, if any, of those who initially entered the building were seen wearing masks.

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However, shortly thereafter, two people who tried to walk into the building saw the sign, returned to their vehicle to get masks and then entered Madsen's while wearing them.

On Friday night, the city of Lincoln charged the business with violating a closure order, a crime punishable by a $500 fine and six months in jail.

Police officers enforced the closure Saturday and blocked all the entrances of the building, which is just south of 48th and Holdrege streets. 

Madsen's planned to ask at an administrative hearing Tuesday afternoon that Health Department Interim Director Pat Lopez throw out her previous closure order, but the compliance plan the business submitted made the meeting moot.

Lopez said the new compliance plan the business submitted included stipulations that patrons and employees would wear masks while inside, along with other provisions to allow bowling in every other lane and certain safety rules for billiards.

Watch now: Lincoln police enforce closure order at Madsen's

Her staff will continue to monitor Madsen's and other businesses for compliance with the directed health measure, she said. 

"We need to remember this is about protecting the health and safety of the workers and the patrons coming in and preventing the spread of the disease," Lopez said.

By Tuesday evening, the misdemeanor charge against the business remained pending and set for a hearing in Lancaster County Court later this month, but Spray said he expects the city will dismiss the charge.

Lincoln City Attorney Yohance Christie didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

After losing in court, city again orders Madsen's to shut its doors

Reporter Sofia Saric contributed to this report.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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Local government reporter

Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

News intern

Summer news intern Sofia Saric is a Los Angeles native studying journalism at Boston University and has previously written stories for the Boston Globe, the Brookline TAB, the Daily Free Press and Spindle.

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