The presidents of the tavern leagues of Jefferson and Dodge counties said Monday their organizations are on board with the Tavern League of Wisconsin's proposal to have bars and restaurants reopening — in limited fashion — by May 1.
The state tavern league is calling on Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to allow bars and restaurants to resume more regular business on that date. This would be more than three weeks ahead of the end of the current stay-at-home order that has forced the closure of most nonessential businesses.
The lobbying group argued in a statement late Sunday that bars, restaurants and supper clubs could reopen by implementing a variety of safety measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
Those steps include requiring all employees to wear masks and gloves; not allowing anyone to be closer than 6-feet from one another; spacing all tables at least 6 feet apart; not allowing more than six people to sit at any one table; and reducing the number of people allowed inside by 50%.
The group also said it would eliminate paper menus, all table condiments and salad bars.
Jefferson County Tavern League President Erick Frommgen, owner of the Concord Inn in Concord said he is hopeful he and his fellow tavern owners will be able to reopen May 1, operating under the state tavern league’s recommendations.
Frommgen said the taverns of the Jefferson/Dodge County area have taken substantial financial hits as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, but that some have been able to apply for and receive federal financial assistance because they are small business. Others have not been so fortunate because such assistance is running out.
“As the Jefferson County Tavern League, we have not done anything with the (state tavern league’s recommendation) yet, because there might be some stuff going on this week with the state legislature and we want to see what might happen there,” Frommgen said.
He said the Jefferson County Tavern League would be in support of the state league’s recommendation, “as long as we can operate safely.”
Kathy Martin, president of the Dodge County Tavern League, has owned the Dockside Pub and Grill in Beaver Dam for the past decade. She said her tavern league is in lock step with the state league and Jefferson County in its desire to see things back on track in bars and restaurant.
"First, I have to tell you how grateful I am to our customer support base, because our Fridays have been great," she said of the carryout business that Dockside and many other pubs are offering.
She said her business facility is not paid off yet and is not eligible for government grant assistance at this point.
"So I have to rely on our customer base and they have been great," she said.
Martin stressed the need for safety first.
"Mostly, what we need to do is stay safe, but bring business back slowly, because people are struggling," she said. "We also have our own business to take care of. There has to be a balance in there someplace. I hear from healthcare that we need to have the 'stay at home' order in place longer. I understand people are concerned, but we are concerned about our livelihood. We are worried about our children and our homes, and it all extends into that. If we can bring business back safely, we need to do that. We just need the public to know there is another side to this."