Milwaukee businesses prepare to adjust to life without masks, capacity mandates

Posted at 5:46 PM, May 18, 2021

MILWAUKEE — In exactly two weeks, the City of Milwaukee will end its public health order, including its mask mandate.

Local businesses are preparing to adjust now the end is in sight.

Many business owners told TMJ4 News Tuesday they wanted to see what the city would do moving forward. Now that the city’s public health order is ending, businesses now will decide whether to keep or ditch the mask requirements.

While the city is ending restrictions, businesses and other establishments can still enforce their own mask rules.

Vaccines are available and nearly 40 percent of Milwaukee has received full vaccination status.

“With that, the city’s requirement for masks will also expire,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Tuesday.

Mayor Barrett, though, chose to make the announcement two weeks out, urging businesses to decide what’s best for their customers.

“We are offering this upcoming 13-day period so they can determine what’s right for them,” Barrett said.

Given the green light, a number of business owners are pondering their next moves.

“I think we need to be very cautious as we move forward. Personally, as a business owner, I’m still requiring masks except when you’re eating or drinking,” said Sam Belton of Sam’s Place Jazz Café.

Sam’s daytime hours lends itself to the older, daytime crowd. Many older patrons are more at-risk for COVID-19 symptoms. It’s why he said his decision is to keep mask rules, regardless of what the city does.

“We don’t want people just running in with no masks on. A lot of the elderly are still not convinced we are not out of the woods with this,” Belton said.

Across town at El Greco, a family-owned restaurant, masks will be optional once the city’s health order expires.

After getting many of his employees vaccinated, John Gliatis said he feels more comfortable with his decision.

“When the vaccine came out, there was a strong push from inside my establishment for everybody to get vaccinated. Because with the customers, I’m also concerned about my employees' safety because they deal with the public every day,” he said.

The expiring health order means there will also be no reduced capacity limits at businesses within the city.

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