MILWAUKEE — Starting Thursday, Milwaukee bars and restaurants with approved safety plans with the city must operate at 50 percent capacity.
"The Health Department is particularly aware of the alarmingly high rates of infection in Milwaukee along with seasonal activities that increase indoor contact and potential for COVID-19 infections," Milwaukee Acting Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson said in a news release.
The previous version allowed 100 percent capacity at establishments with approved safety plans. Hundreds of Milwaukee bars and restaurants had applied for it, including Big Daddy's Barbecue in Riverwest.
Owner Donald Lee says he'll adapt to the new rules because in a pandemic he says, "you have to."
Lee opened his restaurant in the middle of the pandemic back in August. TMJ4 featured his restaurant in its We're Open series.
"With my customers coming in, I got loyal customers, so I can make it," Lee said.
He said now 70 percent of his sales come from takeout.
Some restaurant owners tell TMJ4 that if you follow strict social distancing guidelines, it's nearly impossible to open to full capacity anyway.
Restaurants are still struggling to stay afloat, and many owners are looking to state and federal leaders for help.
State Republicans announced a $100 million coronavirus relief package Tuesday. It proposes offering grants of up to $15,000 for qualifying businesses in the hospitality industry.
Some restaurant owners say that's not enough.
"How do we move forward with rent help, business help, and tax help, along with the safety of all of it?" said Justin Carlisle. He owns Laughing Taco, Red Light Ramen and Ardent.
A spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he, "looks forward to working with his legislative colleagues and the governor on bipartisan solutions to address the COVID crisis in the state.”