New program aims to help Milwaukee restaurants expand outdoor seating

Posted at 1:21 PM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 17:45:15-04

MILWAUKEE — Restaurants and bars in Milwaukee can now take advantage of the city's new Active Streets Pilot Program.

The program allows eligible businesses to go beyond current limitations and expand their outdoor dining areas.

Currently, Milwaukee is operating under phase three of it's reopening plan "Moving Milwaukee Forward." That means bars and restaurants have received guidance from the health department that says they should only operate at 25% capacity. There are also other social distancing guidelines and other strict health guidelines that the businesses must follow.

The new program allows businesses to apply for a chance to expand their outdoor seating sections onto streets, sidewalks and into parking lots and travel lanes.

Morgan Schnabl, owner of the downtown restaurant Brunch, is eager to learn more about the program.

"With only having 25 percent capacity inside that would really be beneficial for us," said Schnabl.

Because of the current set up and social distancing rules, Brunch can currently only squeeze in four outdoor patio seats. Schnabl said the program could allow her to essentially double her outdoor seating space.

Any restaurant citywide can submit an application, including a site plan which will highlight how tables will be socially distanced and shows how businesses plan to block off the areas they intend to use. The city will then review the application and decide whether or not the business will be allowed to receive a suspension of current codes and permits.

The review process will be expedited, according to officials.

"We've seen all the issues with being too close inside so opening up the sidewalks, I think it's a great idea," said Louis Amico, who is a customer at Brunch. "These places have been struggling to stay alive, to pay their rent. This is a city that needs businesses, needs places for people to go to."

For more information on restaurant eligibility and guidelines, click here.

To instructions on how to apply for a permit, click here.

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