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Milwaukee bars and restaurants mixed on reopening after city moves to next phase of plan

Posted at 6:56 PM, Jun 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-05 19:56:47-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee bars and restaurants can officially reopen their dining rooms starting Friday afternoon.

However, they can only be at 25 percent capacity. Reaction across the city's restaurant industry is mixed.

It has been about three months since Kelly's Bleachers near Bluemound Road and 52nd last had customers indoors. On Friday afternoon, they were back and sitting at the bar with the city's blessing.

"I have the Miller at home but it tastes better here," said customer Mike Gimler.

The owners, Anthony Luchini and Freddy Torres, say the bar would not have survived much longer.

“We had less than a month before the doors would be closed forever," Luchini said.

"I haven’t even been able to sleep because I’ve been here since yesterday at 2:00 in the afternoon just cooking, prepping, cleaning, putting hand sanitizers up," said Torres.

Like other businesses, the bar has new measures in place. Staff members wear face masks. You will find extra hand sanitizing stations and there are fewer tables so people can social distance. The team will also take your temperature upon entry.

"We'll do as much as we possibly can to make sure this is a safe environment and a fun environment," said Luchini.

The owners of Amilinda in the city's downtown have a different viewpoint. They will stick to carry out service until August.

"I don’t blame people for wanting to open. I don’t shun people for wanting to open. We’re not going to because I don’t think it’s the right decision," said co-owner Orry Leon.

"We just feel like it came out of nowhere especially since we hadn’t really heard from the city or the health department in a while. There’s no guidelines. There’s no roadmap for us," said Gregory Leon, chef and co-owner at Amilinda.

The Leons say they conducted a survey and found customers do not feel safe dining out yet. The restaurant has been hanging on thanks to generous donations from the community.

For now, the owners are cautiously hopeful and taking it day by day.

"I’m not angry. I’m not sad. But I’m frustrated because there’s no information," said Orry.

As businesses do what they think is best, the Common Council plans to vote on a proposal next week to let bars and restaurants use sidewalks and street space to further help with social distancing.

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