City of Milwaukee to accept applications for 'Active Streets' business program starting June 17

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee bars and restaurants may soon be able to expand outdoor seating; the City of Milwaukee will accept applications for a pilot program starting Wednesday, June 17.

Tom Barrett

The Active Streets for Business program would not shut down entire streets, but allow restaurants and bars to expand seating a little further out from normal patio space.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said it allows for businesses to start to get back to normal and allow a safe space for customers, promoting social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We want this to be something throughout the City of Milwaukee to benefit from," said Barrett.

Starting Wednesday, businesses will be able to apply for a permit to expand outdoor seating -- using sidewalks, parking and driving lanes to accommodate more customers. The program would not shut down any streets and would primarily be for places on roads with a speed limit of 25 mph or less.

"Any restaurant or bar citywide can apply for this program," Barrett said.

The announcement comes as the city and county continue to see positive COVID-19 cases emerge. Leaders encourage people to wear masks, maintain social distancing and get tested.

Ben Weston

"The virus is certainly not gone and will likely increase at some point in the future," said Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

That's why, officials say, the program will allow places and people to be cautious while dining outdoors -- a place health experts say is safer than being inside.

"The proposed dining area must, not surprisingly, comply with health requirements intended to slow or prevent the transmission of COVID-19," said Barrett.

It's a step toward bringing some life back to Milwaukee's streets as summer gets underway.

"We want people to be safe and healthy, and we want our businesses to get back as close to normal as we can," Barrett said.

Right now, the City of Milwaukee is still in Phase 3 of reopening, meaning bars and restaurants are able to operate at 25% capacity.

If you are interested in applying for an Active Streets for Business program permit, CLICK HERE for more information.