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Local restaurants make tough decision to close, limit business amid COVID-19 surge

Posted at 5:37 PM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 18:37:02-05

MILWAUKEE — Amid the latest wave of Covid-19 cases, Milwaukee restaurants are once again having to adjust operations, with some even choosing to close down for the end of the year.

"We wanted to do everything we could to make it safe for our customers, for our staff," said Beans and Barley owner Jim Neumeyer.

He temporarily shut down his dining room as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the city and state.

Last week, cases for a single day peaked this year, and statewide, this month marks the largest wave of infections since November of 2020.

"We hope this is related to people traveling for the holidays, that things will pass relatively quickly, and that we can go back to being open again," said Neumeyer.

Many restaurants, like Neumeyer's, are temporarily pivoting back to a carry-out only model, while other restaurants, like Odd Duck on Kinnickinnic, is closing.

"So it just became inevitable at a certain point, we had enough staff to function, but if we stayed open, those staff were going to continue to be exposed," said Melissa Buchholz, Odd Duck co-owner.

Buchholz adds that with long lines to test and limited access to take home kits, Odd Duck decided to close to allow staff that tested positive to quarantine through the holiday. The hope, after that period, is that the whole staff returns in early January, healthy and ready for the new year.

"Have I cried about this multiple times? Yeah. It's been like that all year," said Buchholz. "These decisions are huge, and I feel like we're being forced to make public health decisions that shouldn't be made by us."

Other bars and restaurants around Milwaukee are choosing to remain open for a busy New Year crowd; some, after their staffs tested negative.

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