'We’re only moving backward': Milwaukee restaurant owners stuck between rock and hard place as COVID-19 cases spike

Posted at 7:07 PM, Jul 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-12 20:07:38-04

MILWAUKEE — As COVID-19 cases spike across Wisconsin, restaurant owners in Milwaukee are unsure of what to do to keep their businesses running, and are finding themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.

As AJ Dixon contemplates reopening her restaurant to foot traffic, she fears what could happen..

“Every day I’ll go to work going is this going to be the day? Like if our doors are open, is this going to be the day? Is one of my staff going to call in sick tomorrow?” Dixon said.

With the pandemic, Lazy Susan in Bay View is only offering takeout, operating out of a window. While Dixon said it’s not ideal, she feels right now it’s the safest way to run her business.

“It’s not on a consistent going down anymore, it’s consistently just going up and up and up and up and up,” Dixon said.

Dixon is scared, watching new COVID-19 cases reach new heights in the country and here in Wisconsin, setting new records the past few days.

“We recognize that with much of the reopening of our society, individuals have also been much more social and out and about, so each individual case is having multiple contacts,” Milwaukee Health Department Medical Director Dr. Heather Paradis said.

At the same time, Dixon sees more of her colleagues at other bars and restaurants closing their doors after an employee or customer tests positive for the virus.

“That to us is going to cost us more money to have to stock and staff to just have to shut back down again,” Dixon said.

Barnacle Bud’s in Milwaukee shut down Saturday because a staff member was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Owner Gene McKiernan said they don’t believe the staff member contracted COVID-19 at the restaurant… and that they’ve been taking all of the necessary precautions.

“If we have bad weather we lose money, so it’s just another something that gets thrown at you, you deal with it,” McKiernan said.

It becomes more of a concern as restaurant staff come into contact with customers who won’t abide by their safety policies. The owner of Boone and Crockett in Milwaukee wrote a post on social media telling those people to “…kindly take your money elsewhere.” Less than 24 hours later, the establishment shared that one of their employees contracted the virus.

This doesn’t encourage Dixon, who at this point said it’s only a matter of time before businesses shut down again.

“We’re not moving forward, we’re only moving backward, and that’s what’s scary,” Dixon said.

Dixon said she won’t feel comfortable opening for dine-in service until a vaccine is available or cases cut down significantly.

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