NYE celebrations will be different this year, impacting area restaurant and bars' bottom line

NOW: NYE celebrations will be different this year, impacting area restaurant and bars’ bottom line

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- New Year’s Eve celebrations Thursday night are going to look a lot different this year, and restaurants and bars in the area say the current COVID-19 restrictions will affect their bottom line.

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association says 46-percent of restaurants are looking to soon close temporarily, but they’re worried many will not re-open.

“We used to be open all night through the night into New Year’s Day, we’ll probably close around 2 or 3 a.m. tomorrow night just because of capacity restrictions and what not,” said Ryan Steny, Co-Owner, Steny’s Tavern and Grill.

For Milwaukee’s Steny’s Tavern and Grill, New Year’s Eve and day called for a big celebration, but this year it’ll look much different with no DJ, no dancefloor, no champagne toast and no balloon drop.

“We took all that stuff away just trying to be as safe as possible for the customers and my staff,” said Steny.

The WRA says for the service industry, New Year’s is typically a big money-maker and adds to a strong finish to end the year.

“January and February tend to be a little bit slower so the business they receive on New Year’s Eve is really important for their bottom line,” Kristine Hillmer, President and CEO, Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

Milwaukee’s COVID-19 restrictions say restaurants and bars are limited to 50-percent capacity and everyone must be seated. Steny says staying seated doesn’t fit well with a New Year’s Eve celebration, he says it’s even been hard for customers to comply during regular business days.

“Standing is a big thing, we’ve actually lost some regular customers that have been here for 10 to 15 years,” he adds.

 “At 50-percent capacity limit you’re going to be at half of probably what your revenue is going to be than if you were at full capacity,” said Hillmer.

Other businesses have also been affected, Potawatomi Hotel and Casino known for ‘Milwaukee’s biggest New Years Eve party’ isn’t holding their annual event this year because of COVID-19. The bash brings in more than 1,500 people.

“We will be open Thursday with our current operating hours and safety protocols in place. We do look forward to ringing in 2022 in style a year from now,” says Ryan Amundson, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino Public Relations Manager in a statement.

“People aren’t going to bars and restaurants like they used to, it’s been so hard,” Steny said. “It’s hard to do business at 50-percent from what we’re used to”

Health officials say the safest way to celebrate is at home with the people you live with.

“We must continue this vigilance if we’re to emerge from this pandemic with as few additional lives lost as possible,” said Dr. Ben Weston, Medical Director, Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

Bars and restaurants agree they are looking forward to some stability in 2021. Steny hopes by March and April there will be less restrictions in the city, he’s most excited to have life return back to normal.

“It won’t be the same this year, next year hopefully we’ll go double,” he added. 

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