Milwaukee restaurants and festivals excited following city's announcement on easing restrictions

NOW: Milwaukee restaurants and festivals excited following city’s announcement on easing restrictions

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) --  There's now a date you can circle on your calendar when many of the COVID-19 restrictions in Milwaukee will go away, that date is Tuesday, June 15.

On Thursday, the city health department said limits on gathering sizes and occupancy will be lifted for businesses and events beginning June 15. Events hosted after the date will not need to submit a COVID-19 safety plan to the health department.  MHD says mask-wearing will still be enforced indoors and social distancing whenever possible is still recommended.

Milwaukee restaurants and festival organizers say they were happy to hear this announcement, some say it was certainly needed. The health department said downward trends in COVID-19 cases is the reason behind the decision.

Head of Irish Fest, Mike Mitchell, says he’s been watching the data and hoped something like this would come along.

“I’m personally very excited to be able to actually enjoy a festival again, you know this is Milwaukee, the city of festivals and we went through a dark period,” Mitchell said.

While Mitchell is thrilled, he still wants to make sure Milwaukee’s Irish Fest is still a safe environment for workers and the people attending.

“Whatever the city and the CDC gives us in guidance, we’re going to make sure that we follow that,” he adds.

Buck Bradley’s on Old World Third Street reopened less than a month ago after being shut down for seven months.

“Everybody in this industry has had to deal with quite a lot,” said Wally Paget, owner of Buck Bradley’s in Milwaukee. “I actually suspended operations the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving because we were losing a lot of money and I finally reopened.”

Paget says it’s a relief he’ll be able to fully reopen in the middle of June.

“Individuals have put their lives into an investment and it’s been taken away,” he said. “Now for those that have made it, hopefully with the restrictions being eased, we’ll bounce back and the community will come back stronger than ever.”

The city’s announcement came just before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said fully vaccinated people no longer have to mask indoors, which could impact the city’s mask order moving forward. 

“We’re going to be meeting internally and talking about what this means for us,” said Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson.

While masks won’t be required outdoors for events after June 15, Johnson says for Summerfest, masking rules are still being figured out.

Mayor Tom Barrett believes people will slowly feel more comfortable going out as the date nears.

“I don’t think it’s going to be overnight where everyone’s going to feel like they can go out like they did two years ago, but I’m hoping that it means that our restaurants and our movie theaters and other areas of entertainment will do better,” said Mayor Barrett.

Johnson says she does not see the city lifting orders any sooner than June 15, because there is still transmission in our community. She urges everyone get vaccinated.

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