'It hurts everybody': More local restaurants close their doors

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- After 25 years, Milwaukee Ale House announced they won't be renewing their lease in the Third Ward when it ends in September.

It's a decision more and more local restaurants are making.

Dave Dayler, the owner of Saloon on Calhoun in Brookfield, said financial fallout brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to shut business down.

"We decided that a guillotine is easier than a thousand paper cuts," Dave Dayler said.

Dayler told CBS 58 revenue was down about $1.1 million in 2020 and 2021. In 2022, revenue is down by about $400,000, which he said was needed to survive the summer.

Dayler posted the news to social media, and said he was touched by the number of customers who reached out and shared stories about their time there.

"The hardest thing for us is walking away from those relationships. The stuff, it can be replaced, but the memories, the experiences, the relationships, those will go on forever," Dayler said.

The bar will close to the public on Saturday, Aug. 20. It is staying open through the rest of the month to host pre-scheduled private events.

Many restaurant owners are faced with the same possibility.

"Every day. Every day I consider it. Every day I go, do I really want to keep doing this?" AJ Dixon said.

The chef and owner of Lazy Susan Milwaukee told CBS 58 the lack of staffing and rising costs of goods is no longer sustainable for restaurants.

"A case of eggs used to be anywhere from $15 to $20, depending. They're now up to $47 a case," Dixon said.

She already raised her prices, but said it's not enough to offset the cost of inflation.

"If I were to charge the prices I should, for, to pay say a living wage, to offer health insurance, which we don't, to offer paid vacation, which I do offer paid time off, to offer paid sick time, to even pay myself. We have a hamburger on the menu that's $16. You would be looking at $22.50. Ask any customer on the street if you'd walk into a restaurant and pay $22.50 for a hamburger and you won't," Dixon said. "This is the reality and consumers need to understand that we are always going to be taking a hit, always, because we can see what people are willing to pay for versus what, you know, the things actually cost."

Dixon said there's short-term solutions the government could help with. She suggested a payroll tax holiday.

"When small businesses go away, it hurts everybody," Dayler said.

On top of all the rising costs, Dayler said people just aren't going out to restaurants and bars and spending money like they used to.

"This is a problem that is far greater than one bar in Brookfield Wisconsin," Dayler said.

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