Milwaukee restaurants, bars adapt to COVID-19 safety changes

Milwaukee health officials said there are more than 1,700 hundred licensed bars and restaurants in the city. If they want to serve guests in-person, they must submit a COVID-19 safety plan to the Milwaukee Health Department.

As of Friday, Sept. 11, only 300 plans had been submitted, 140 of which were approved. Updated numbers are expected on Sept. 18. Until then, for some businesses, there is nothing left to do but wait.

Adam Pawlak, chef and owner of Egg & Flour Pasta Bar near Howell and Kinnickinnic in Bay View, knows all too well the importance of "kneading" a plan.

"Took five months to get back open, but we made sure we're going to do it right," Pawlak said. "Now, we're on our way."

Egg & Flour Pasta Bar in Bay View

Egg & Flour Pasta Bar in Bay View

Forced to shutter his doors less than one week after celebrating the grand opening of his Bay View location in March, Pawlak jumped at the opportunity to submit a COVID-19 safety plan to the Milwaukee Health Department.

"It just shows people are going to be taking the extra measures and it's all fair then," said Pawlak. "Now we are just waiting back for the final certificate."

Still, Pawlak said they are putting safety plans into action now.

"We had plenty of training and days before opening to make sure people really understand how important it is," Pawlak said.

Palomino Bar in Bay View

Palomino Bar in Bay View

At Palomino Bar, safety for employees and guests is of utmost importance for Andy Menschal, director of marketing.

"It's a smaller, older building, older filtration system, so we did not want to invite guests back into our space," said Menschal.

The business did not submit a COVID-19 safety plan to the city -- but for good reason. By sticking to carryout only, they don't need to.

"I would say 99% of the feedback has been positive," Menschal said.

Guests can sit on the Palomino patio on a first-come, first-serve basis -- but there is no table service. 

With the help of loyal customers, Menschal said it is a system the bar and restaurant is sticking to.

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"It's taken a lot of hard work by our team, by management, looking forward to coming through the other end of this," Menschal said.

A deadline of Sept. 15 at 11:59 p.m. had been put in place for bars and restaurants seeking an approved plan to continue serving guests in-person, without capacity limits. The health department will be educating business owners who have not submitted their plans, and still need to. Then health officials say they will provide a compliance due date of two weeks from that point.

The health department placed a dropbox in its lobby at the Zeidler Building downtown after some business owners ran into trouble emailing their plans.

Restaurant and bar owners who still need to submit plans will be contacted by health officials.

Dropbox installed to submit Milwaukee bar, restaurant COVID-19 plans

While the deadline has passed, some owners who ran into trouble submitting their plans on time now have a second way to do so -- a secure dropbox downtown.

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

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.