Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 14, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Things quickly are going from bad to worse for Wisconsin’s restaurants struggling under the Evers administration’s latest emergency order.
Longtime eateries like Madison’s Avenue Club have been forced to close, at least temporarily, after state Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm announced last week that public gatherings would be capped at 25 percent of capacity through Nov. 6.
“We have made the very hard decision to temporarily close the Avenue Club at the end of October. With limited capacity and a decline in customer foot traffic, we couldn’t find a way to keep operating under the current circumstances,” restaurant owners posted on Facebook. “Our sales aren’t covering our expenses, and that’s been the case since March. COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our industry. Restaurants were the first to close to keep our communities safe, and will likely be the last to fully re-open.”
The Avenue Club will reopen “when there is a better handle on this virus (hopefully, a vaccine) and lifted capacity restrictions.”
Last week, Kristine Hillmer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, told Empower Wisconsin the Badger State economy faces the loss of 50 percent of its restaurants if the pandemic and strict government orders drag on. One in 10 restaurants already have closed permanently, the association says.
About 1 in 3 restaurant employees have been laid off, WRA Vice President Susan Quam told Channel3000.
Gov. Tony Evers last week shrugged off the damage done, asserting his administration’s statewide order taking 75 percent of business away from restaurants, bars, retailers and others “is not closing anything.”
“They still have 25 percent capacity to work with,” he dismissively said.
This week, the Legislature’s Rules committee passed a motion requiring the state’s health chief to turn her public gathering order into a rule. The effect most likely will be to kill the order, but Palm still has 30 days to comply. By that time, it could be too late for too many businesses suffering under government-forced restrictions.
Wisconsin boasted some 12,800 eating and drinking establishments in 2018. They supported more than 284,000 jobs and generated north of $10 billion in sales.
Those numbers have significantly declined thanks to Evers’ efforts to bubble wrap the state from a virus, which the vast majority of people recover from.