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'We're not just going to open willy-nilly:' Restaurants keep dining rooms closed to protect customers, staff

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GREENFIELD, Wis. (CBS 58) -- While some local bars and restaurants are flooding open, others are hitting the 'pause' button.

Even before municipalities put their own stay-at-home orders in place, several local restaurant owners chose to keep their dining rooms closed to protect their customers and staff.

Shortly after the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision Wednesday night, owner Nick Marking decided to keep the Brass Tap in Greenfield closed for dine-in service for at least a few weeks.

"The Supreme Court struck down the ruling, but I just didn't feel like it was the right time," Marking said. "I just want to make sure that we're doing the right thing, that are customers and employees are safe."

Marking plans to continue delivery and curbside options in the meantime. He made a Facebook post Wednesday night announcing his decision to remain closed and was encouraged by hundreds of positive responses.

"It was very nice to see, and all of the comments were very, very supportive. It makes all of us -- our staff, myself -- make sure that we're doing the right thing," he said.

Restaurants that are part of the Lowlands Group, such as Café Hollander and Buckatabon, are opening up for to-options for the first time on Friday. But CEO Eric Wagner said dining rooms will stay closed at least for now.

"We want to be really thoughtful and really careful how we (reopen) to keep our guests and our people safe. So we're not just going to open willy-nilly and start throwing it to the wind to see what would happen," Wagner said.

Wagner has spent weeks reviewing guidelines from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., local health departments, other states and restaurant associations.

"We really want to study this next step to make sure that we understand how to sanitize every chair and every table and where people really need to sit close to each other and how we're going to handle glassware and plateware," Wagner said.

Marking said the Brass Tap will take similar precautions when he finally reopens.

"We'll have all the tables socially distanced 6-foot apart. All of our employees will be wearing gloves and masks," Marking said.

Both owners said it's up to individual businesses to decide what's best for them. Wagner said he's keeping an eye on other restaurants reopening sooner.

"It's really hard to see all of that happening on the outside because we know that those people are going to be in our restaurants and there's going to be intermingling and everything else," he said.

WEDC has released guidelines for restaurants on how to reopen safely, such as:

  • sanitize high contact areas every two hours.
  • sanitize tables and chairs after every customer.
  • wear gloves to avoid direct contact with foods.
  • only let employees, not customers, fill refills.
  • use a new cup for every refill.
  • install physical barriers between staff and customers.
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