Milwaukee in-person dining restaurants could jeopardize their license without a COVID-19 safety plan

NOW: Milwaukee in-person dining restaurants could jeopardize their license without a COVID-19 safety plan

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- All Milwaukee restaurants planning to have in-person dining, whether indoor or outdoor, must have their COVID-19 safety plans submitted by midnight on Tuesday, Sept. 15. The plans must be approved by the Milwaukee Health Department in order for in-person dining to continue.

In-person dining could come to an end for some Milwaukee restaurants who fail to respond to the health department.

The health department says Milwaukee has more than 1,700 licensed restaurants and as of Friday, they’ve only received 300 plans. Some restaurants won’t be required to turn one in.

“There’s some that did not submit because they only want to do carryout or curbside,” said Jeanette Kowalik, Milwaukee’s Health Commissioner.

Milwaukee’s 5 O’Clock Steakhouse submitted their plan earlier this month and are awaiting a reply, but have already made changes for the safety of their staff and customers. The restaurant, whose dining room is now at half capacity, submitted a five-page safety plan, in the hopes of expanding capacity.

“We can have 80 people in here at a time so not a problem during the week, but on weekends we do have our upstairs dining room, which we use as well,” said Patrick Walter, manager of 5 O’Clock Steakhouse.

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association says submitting a plan is crucial.

“What these safety plans allow you to do is to be open to the largest capacity while taking social distancing into account,” said Kristine Hillmer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

The safety plans require restaurants to cover procedures for social distancing, masking, sanitizing and employee COVID-19 response.

“If someone’s infected, we have a sheet that we can document who is working that day, what stations and have them all get tested,” said Walter.

As of Friday, 140 restaurants in the city have received approvals.

“The reasons why some of these plans have not been approved is there may be additional adjustments or consultations that need to happen,” added Kowalik.

Starting Wednesday the health department will begin calling restaurants who haven’t submitted a plan.

“We’ll educate and give restaurants and bars that have not submitted plans another two weeks, we’re not going to issue fines like tomorrow,” says Kowalik.

The WRA is also encouraging restaurants find creative ways to keep outdoor dining areas open for as long as possible.

“Our members are indicating that within the next 6 months if they cannot start opening up and this is statewide, 33% of restaurants will not survive,” said Hillmer.

If the health department does not hear back from restaurant owners within two weeks then they will submit non-compliant businesses to the licensing department.

If you are a restaurant and would like to submit a COVID-19 safety plan, click here.

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