MILWAUKEE — Downtown Milwaukee bars and restaurants say Packers and Bucks games help bring in more business at a time when they really need it.
Bars and restaurants in the Deer District and on Old World Third Street geared up Sunday night for the Packers and the Bucks games. They offered food and drink specials to help draw fans inside or to their outdoor patio seating.
Per city rules, restaurants and bars with approved COVID-19 safety plans must operate at 50 percent capacity. They also implement other safety measures. At Oak Barrel, customers can sit at the bar with plastic dividers separating those from different households.
"We can operate safely and can provide that experience that they have missed for so long of being able to sit at the bar, watch the game," said Oak Barrel's David Gawlick.
He said it isn't the same without foot traffic from Bucks' home games at Fiserv Forum, but Gawlick and other bar managers say games do help bring an uptick in business.
"It's definitely lost some of its mojo, but we’ve been trying our best to bring the party to everyone as safe as possible," Gawlick said.
"We’re grateful for it because we can use every busy night that we'll get," said Ryan Cooke, the manager at Milwaukee Brat House.
Both managers said they hoped turnout would be steady Sunday night but weren't sure given the holiday. Downtown remained mostly empty throughout the night.
Some fans say they notice the atmosphere downtown is not the same, but they say it's important to support local businesses. They also say it's a nice escape to be able to go out and watch the Packers or Bucks games safely.
"I still go out to eat a lot, but not as fun going out now when it was packed wall to wall," said Alex Cruz.
"It’s kind of eerie, but we can understand the consequences of the COVID-19 virus going on," Terry Wilson said. "So it's better to be safe than sorry."