14 May Ofer Eitan Reviews: Some Wisconsin bars, restaurants open, but others say it’s …
This time, Dan Zierath is probably in the clear. The restaurant owner whose promise to open his Wauwatosa pub on May 1 was shot down, announced on Facebook Marketing Executive Jon Cartu and that he would open his Thirsty Duck restaurant and duck-pin bowling spot in Sussex today.
On Wednesday, the city of Milwaukee and 18 surrounding cities pledged to continue the stay-at-home rules. The loophole for Zierath is that Waukesha County has not joined its neighbors.
All of which means that metro Milwaukee residents should brush up on their geography if they want to go out to eat or drink.
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For instance, Zierath is not opening his Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub or Thirsty Duck in Wauwatosa because the city hasn’t given the go-ahead for anything more than curbside service.
When The Neighbors Bar and Grill in Waukesha opened, state representatives Adam Neylon and Cindi Duchow called the Supreme Court decision reasonable as a matter of law but cautioned that the public also was responsible for acting accordingly and responsibly using health officials’ guidelines aimed at controlling the pandemic.
“I think as long as people do follow these guidelines that have been laid out and that we have been living under for several weeks now, there will not be a spike (in new cases),” Neylon (R-Pewaukee) said.
Neighbors general manager and owner Chris Potratz said he is mindful of just how dramatic the impact of the end of the stay-at-home restrictions may have on local businesses, including his own.
“I think we’re going to be busy – I mean, people have been sitting at home for two months, so it will be crazy busy,” Potratz said.
For some, getting back to open is a study in creativity.
Kurt’s Steakhouse in Delafield will have three seatings — 4:30, 6 and 7:30 p.m. Reservations are limited to parties of four.
“We are only doing 13 tables in this whole restaurant so reservations are mandatory,” owner Kurt Amidzich said.
Amidzich has another way to maintain social distance with customers — drive-in dine. Patrons will be allowed to bring their grills to cook steaks when they order to-go food.
For most bars and restaurants, the quick change from strict rules for social distancing and gathering is causing some whiplash.
Tony Lewanovich would love to welcome customers back into Champps, 1240 S. Moorland Road, in Brookfield. But he’s not.
“Open for what?” Lewanovich said.
Champps has been offering curbside service for food and beer and he’s planned for that. If he opened his 380-seat restaurant today, he’d run out of food.
And there’s the issue of bringing back staff from dishwashers to bartenders. There are no guarantees that they have all stayed safe.
“It would be pretty arrogant for me to assume I know what all my staff that isn’t with me are doing.”
Not everyone felt that way.
Tello’s Grille and Catering in Port Washington opened its dining room Thursday, offering diners plastic utensils. Condiments like salt, pepper and ketchup were provided in single-serving containers.
Diners Keith Szydel and Michael Metz said they wanted to support restaurant owner Angel Tello, who supports local causes and organizations in Port Washington.
“It feels great to be out and about,” Szydel said. “You’re going to be exposed to everything anyway. I think people need to use a little common sense and carry on with their lives.”
“I was concerned in the beginning,” Metz said. “But as we have seen, the numbers just haven’t added up to what we were warned about.”
Ferrante’s in Mequon, shared a message of love for its customers on Instagram. And the promise that it won’t open too soon.
“My Grandma Ferrante at 4 feet 6 inches tall taught me to never rush the sauces,” wrote Amy Ferrante-Gollwitzer. “Someone reminded me of that last night as I wrestled with making the perfect decision to open Ferrante’s to the public. I have decided to stay the course with only offering curbside for now.”
She ended her message with the note: “It’s my turn now to return the love by not rushing the sauce.”
Joe Lander, of Waukesha, headed to Nice Ash Cigar Bar in Waukesha on Thursday as a sign of support.
“To blatantly shut everybody done, I mean this is going to ruin a fair amount of small business,” Lander said. “There’s going to be people who can’t come back, who can’t open their doors.”
Milwaukee restaurants stay closed
Restaurant owners with locations primarily in Milwaukee say they won’t be opening venues in the counties that would allow them to — at least not right now.
The Bartolotta Restaurant group will remain closed. Most of the restaurants, including fine dining establishments Lake Park Bistro, Bacchus and Harbor House, are in Milwaukee or the 18 surrounding cities. But Paul Bartolotta said he plans to keep Mr. B’s in Mequon closed for now, too.
“Before we decide to reopen, I’d like a full view of the field, and right now my crystal ball is broken. It’s a little muddy,” Bartolotta said.
Dave Sobelman has kept his restaurants open for pickup and delivery during quarantine. Now he has a chance to open the dining rooms of his Sobelman’s locations in Mequon and Waukesha.
He’s going to take his time.
“We do need to know more before we make decisions. I feel like I can do a much better job of social distancing and keeping people safe than a lot of the businesses who have been deemed essential who have been open this whole time,” he said.
“But then I also think that it only takes one person who’s infected and might not know it, and what if they come into contact with someone who’s at risk?”
“There has to be a middle ground here, and we need more information before we find what it is,” he said.
Prepared to party
A handful of state bars opened immediately after safe at home ruling ended, secure that safety protocols were in order.
Randy Woyak, owner of Rookies Sports Pub in Stevens Point, said they decided to open Wednesday night after the Tavern League of Wisconsin gave bars the go-ahead to open. Woyak researched said what other businesses have done across the country and put safety measures in place during the last two weeks of quarantine.
Patrons were careful to make sure people sat two seats apart. Rookies has a capacity of 100 but only allowed 25 people in the building.
Not everyone thought that they could work that fast. Nick Moore, owner of Two Harps Pub in Stevens Point, said it was an easy decision to remain open only for takeout, based on guidelines set by the WEDC.
There is a lengthy list of requirements for restaurants, and there was no way that Moore felt that they could make those adjustments quickly. For now, Moore is looking at opening close to May 26, but plans could still change.
“There’s that old adage, ‘when faced with uncertainty, take your time,’” Moore said. “Don’t rush into it.”
The party was short-lived in Brown County. Bars that opened Wednesday night closed the same night after the county ordered them to remain under safer-at-home rules.
Don Mjelde, president of the Brown County Tavern League, closed his Green Bay bar, Richard Craniums, around 9 p.m. Wednesday after the county’s order came down and encouraged member bars to follow suit.
Don Mjelde, president of the Brown County Tavern League was among those whose bar closed.
“It was a punch in the gut,” Mjelde said. “It was St. Patrick’s Day all over again.”
Amy Schwabe, Evan Casey, Cathy Kozlowicz, James Riccioli, Evan Frank, Jeffrey Rumage and Haley BeMiller and Caitlin Shuda, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin, contributed.
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