Bars and Restaurants Can Reopen Friday in Milwaukee
Revised order will loosen restrictions
Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik will issue a revised public health order allowing bars and restaurants to reopen to in-person indoor and outdoor dining starting Friday, June 5th at 2:00 p.m.
Referred to as “phase three” of the city’s reopening plan, the move will also reduce the restrictions on other city businesses and organizations. Mayor Tom Barrett announced the news during a Thursday afternoon press conference.
“Bars and restaurants can open for indoor service at 25 percent of capacity,” said Barrett. Salons and spas will stay at a one-to-one staff-to-customer ratio, while other businesses will be increased to a 50 percent capacity limit.
“Outdoor dining will be allowed with precautions,” said Barrett. The Common Council is working with the Department of Public Works and other city departments to approve an outdoor patio plan that would ease permitting restrictions and fees.
The announcement comes as testing data on five gating criteria has improved said Barrett. He said Kowalik, who did not attend the press conference, was in regular communication with the Wisconsin National Guard regarding testing data.
In the 18 Milwaukee County suburbs, bars and restaurants have been open, with only capacity recommendations, not requirements, since Friday, May 22nd. South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks said he had observed businesses complying with the guidelines.
“The bad news is of course the disease is still out there,” said Barrett. He said businesses and patrons still need to practice safe practices, including social distancing. “No one wants to see their business singled out as a hot spot,” he said. The city has an open application window for grants to reconfigure businesses.
Barrett said the data supports the decision, but it wasn’t an easy one. “I do so with some trepidation because I don’t want people to get sick,” said Barrett.
Public health officials don’t want people to rush back to normal life. Dr. Ben Weston, medical services director for Milwaukee County, said the move to stay home and practice social distancing is what has slowed the disease. “It’s all still as important now as it was at the end of March,” said Greenfield public health officer Darren Rausch in detailing a declining case rate in Milwaukee County.
“We’re not out of the woods on COVID-19,” said Brooks. Similar remarks were made by every speaker.
All five of the gating criteria are yellow at the county level. A city dashboard shows three red icons and two yellow, but was last updated June 1st.
For more on the gating critiera and the city’s monitoring, see our coverage from last week.
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