11 Milwaukee County leaders issue order closing bars, restaurants except for carryout, delivery

MILWAUKEE -- Eleven Milwaukee County municipal leaders, supported by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, issued an emergency order late Monday, March 16 to close bars and restaurants in their jurisdictions to in-house patrons, effective on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 and until further notice. Restaurants with take-out and delivery options will still be able to operate those services, even as their dining rooms are temporarily closed.

Milwaukee, South Milwaukee, St. Francis, Bayside, Brown Deer, Cudahy, Fox Point, Glendale, River Hills, Shorewood, and Whitefish Bay issued the following statement:

“Clear and bold actions are needed immediately to stop the spread of COVID-19 and strengthen public health in Milwaukee County, and that means closing our bars and restaurants for now. This will be extremely difficult on the family-owned bars, local restaurants and small businesses that make Milwaukee County the best place to call home. We are in unprecedented times, and that calls for unprecedented actions. We want to thank the bars, restaurants, businesses and all our residents for understanding this is a necessary measure to safeguard the health of our community. We are all in this together.”

The emergency order restricts food, liquor, beer, and wine sales to carry-out and delivery only for bars and restaurants in certain areas of Milwaukee County. Onsite consumption of food and beverage will not be permitted.

The order was issued ahead of St. Patrick's Day, which commonly attracts large groups of people to bars and restaurants across Milwaukee County and the State of Wisconsin.

Health officials said participating in St. Patrick’s Day activities would make social distancing nearly impossible -- the paramount strategy for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

Officials noted this measure "builds on Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ order prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people" issued earlier Monday.

The dramatic moves came as state health officials said for the first time there was likely community spread of the new coronavirus to people who had not traveled to high-risk areas. Evers said he was following recommendations made Sunday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in setting the cap at 50 people. President Donald Trump said Monday afternoon that crowds of 10 people should be avoided.

At the County Clare Irish Inn & Pub in Milwaukee, Gov. Evers' order meant scaling back the huge St. Patrick's Day celebration that normally includes a tent and live music.

Dennis Radtke

"This is obviously the biggest day of the year for us," said Dennis Radtke, CEO of Harp and Eagle Limited. "We have to drastically reduce, eliminate those plans to come in accordance to the state guideline Tony Evers has put out there today."

The number of COVID-19 infections in Wisconsin increased Monday to 47, up from 33 on Sunday. Evers said enforcing the order would be up to local law enforcement agencies.

"It's on all of us to practice social distancing and take every step possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," said Evers.

The closure of bars and restaurants was mandated in several states surrounding Wisconsin, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota.

Bartolotta Mr. B's Steakhouse

Officials with The Bartolotta Restaurants announced earlier Monday "the decision to temporarily transition several of our restaurants to curbside service, while temporarily suspending dine-in service in all restaurants open to the public" starting Tuesday at these locations:

    BelAir Cantina

    Officials announced the suspension of dine-in and beverage services effective Monday night at these restaurants:

      Hospitality Democracy officials announced these changes as of Tuesday:

        Officials with Trinity Three Irish Pubs announced an indefinite closure.

        "It's going to be very difficult for those people to make ends meet," said Radtke. "We hope that we can contain the virus, and take appropriate measures to keep places viable until it clears."

        Officials suggested people who don't want to come out for food instead buy a gift card for their favorite restaurant to use when this passes.