Deadline comes for Milwaukee bars', restaurants' COVID-19 plans

Time is almost up for restaurants and bars in the City of Milwaukee to submit COVID-19 safety plans if they hope to continue serving customers in-person.

After more than a month's notice, plans must be submitted by the time the clock strikes midnight and the calendar is flipped to Wednesday, Sept. 16.

Tuesday, Sept. 15 -- a date that has been marked on the Milwaukee Health Department's calendar -- has arrived.

"Today is the day," Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said. "Restaurants, bars can still provide curbside, or pickup or delivery, but the in-person dining is what we're looking at and that's why we are requiring safety plans."

Under Phase 4.1 of Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely, a public health order, a COVID-19 safety plan must be approved to continue in-person dining -- both indoors and outside.

A risk assessment tool available online covers key areas that need to be addressed.

Milwaukee Health Department placard denoting an approved COVID-19 safety plan for bars and restaurants

Omar Shaikh, co-owner of Carnevor in downtown Milwaukee, was one of the first to get the green light -- and a placard.

"It's pretty intensive," said Shaikh. "We actually looked at a lot of plans from around the country, looked at LA's plan, Chicago's plan."

Among other safety measures, guests will find a hand sanitizer station upon entry, physical distancing stickers on the floor, spaced out tables and a mask requirement when not at their table.

Kowalik said that restaurants that fail to submit plans by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday will be given a two-week extension. After that, noncompliance could cost restaurant and bar owners their license.

"We know this is overwhelming, and we know there have been a lot of moving parts," Kowalik said. "If there's no compliance by the two-week deadline, then we're going to refer those non-compliant businesses to the licensing committee."

Officials said plans will be reviewed as quickly as possible. An updated list of approved bars and restaurants will be released on Friday, Sept. 18.

As of Friday, Sept. 11, 300 plans were submitted and 140 were approved.