MILWAUKEE — Some COVID-19 restrictions were loosened on Friday in Milwaukee. Restaurants in particular are impacted by the new ordinance and will now be able to welcome guests up to 50% of capacity.
Previously, only 25% capacity was allowed, unless they had an approved safety plan from the health department.
But even with that new ordinance, some restaurants said they won't be rushing to make any changes.
"We're still going to do the things we've been doing the same way we're doing them," said Mike Walker with Lakefront Brewery.
Walker said the brewery is operating between 25-35% capacity, is keeping tables distanced and is requiring masks when people aren't eating or drinking.
One person dining at the brewery on Friday night said those precautions help her feel more confident going out.
"You can have a better time because you don't feel like people are right on top of you, or right next to you. And they have the hand sanitizer out and everyone is wearing masks," said Stephanie Ford, who was out eating with her family.
Blue Bat Kitchen in the Third Ward said it is also taking a cautious approach, but is encouraged that the city is taking steps toward a return to normal.
"It's an awesome thing to really start to see the city ordinances changing and opening up," said Blue Bat Kitchen's General Manager Chris Haywood.
Overall, both Haywood and Walker said they've noticed upticks in people dining out in the last few weeks.
A recent poll from Ipsos shows that the number of people going out to eat is back on the rise. Earlier this month, 39% of Americans said they had gone out to eat in the last week, which is a significant increase from the about 10% of Americans going out to eat in April 2020. Pre-pandemic, 56% of people said they were going out to eat each week.
Both restaurants, and the people going out to eat at them, said there's one thing in particular that's increasing confidence going out: the COVID-19 vaccine.
"I think with the influx of the vaccine, it's really started to make people feel more comfortable," Haywood said.
Walker noticed a similar trend. He said, "ever since people started getting vaccinated, we do feel like we’ve noticed a little bit of an uptick of people. Especially on Fridays and Saturdays. Right now it’s Lent so our Friday fish fry has been super popular.”
Even with that increased interest and confidence in eating out, Walker said Lakefront Brewery will probably wait until even more people have gotten the vaccine before making any more changes.
A new group is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Wisconsin starting on Monday. Click here for more information on who qualifies.