Restaurants and bars navigate post-pandemic restriction landscape

MADISON, Wisconsin – For business owners, the pandemic was like the Wild West.

“I mean, this is a whole lot of territory that no one could have planned,” said Peter McElvanna, owner of The Coopers Tavern.

“It’s been a crazy year,” said Ken Boll, owner of Cask & Ale. “The ups and downs of opening and closing and opening and closing.”

Now that cases are declining, vaccinations are increasing and restrictions are loosening, the landscape is changing.

“Looks like there’s more to State Street going on,” Boll said. “We can go back to normal. “

Dane County’s last public health order expired on Wednesday, removing capacity restrictions and the mask’s long-standing tenure. Officials gave a notice about two weeks ago, saying it gave business owners time to plan their next steps.

This means business owners are crossing a new frontier with leeway from public health officials to develop their own mask policies.

“We’re not going to use masks to be fully vaccinated,” Boll said, adding that his staff were also fully vaccinated. “If (clients) are not fully immunized, we would prefer them to wear a mask just for their own safety and the safety of others, but we are not going to be the mask police. I will not ask for cards when they arrive. It’s going to be too much to handle, I think, so we’re going to hope everyone is honest with their immunization records and moving forward from there.

Throughout the pandemic, Boll said he has let science lead the way, and he’s happy that it now points to a path of hope.

“We are going in the right direction,” he said. “It proves that science works.”

A few blocks down the plaza, The Coopers Tavern will slowly return to its normal capacity over the next few weeks.

“We’re making it easy for us to come back,” McElvanna said. “If you get back to 100% right away, that will be too much. The kitchen will be overwhelmed.

McElvanna said staff members prefer to continue to wear masks.

“Next week we will have more tables. The next week, maybe come back to full capacity. Then, depending on the state of mind of the staff, we will see if they want to take their masks off, ”he said. “We are not putting any pressure. I’ll wear my mask. I have two children at home.

Masks are encouraged for clients and mandatory for those who are not vaccinated.

“I guess about 30% of the people who came were wearing their masks, but it’s an honor system, so we really have no way of controlling that there,” McElvanna said. “But the clientele we have here are quite nice, everything went very well.”

Some companies, such as The Soap Opera on State Street, will continue to apply masks to all customers to ensure the safety of visitors and immunocompromised children.

As businesses progress, the pandemic has left behind new challenges.

“We are facing the same issues as everyone across the country with staff shortages,” Boll said.

For some companies, this means limiting the hours. At Cask & Ale, they plan to return to seven days a week as soon as possible.

In the meantime, Boll said it felt good to enter more familiar territory.

“I hope the numbers continue to move in the right direction and that we can overcome this,” he said.


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