'We’ve been waiting for good news': Venue managers react to Milwaukee Health Department's new gathering limits

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee Health Department announced on Tuesday, Feb. 2, that under a revised health order, it was loosening restrictions on gathering limits. 

“Our new gathering limits are set at 25 percent capacity of a venue or up to 250 individuals,” said Interim Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson. 

If a location has an approved safety plan in place, a larger number of people can attend. 

"We’ve been waiting for good news for a long time and I think we finally have it now," said Tim Smith, general manager of The Pfister Hotel. 

He says it's been a lonely 10 months. He's ready for the day they bring back staff and guests for their first event. 

"I'm getting emotional just thinking about that, right. You know, those of us in the hotel business, we’re in the business because we're people junkies. We like being around people, we love serving people. The ultimate reward is when somebody says 'thank you.' To welcome those employees back and those guests back, that’s what we live for," said Smith. 

"It’s definitely a move in the right direction. We’re happy to see there’s progress in accepting having people in our event, it does still come with a number of limitations," said Mei-Lyn Nelson, owner of The Factory on Barclay. 

"Some of the limiting factors for weddings more particularly, would be the fact that you can’t have dancing, which is kind of a bummer," she said. 

"It was happy and bad news, kind of," said Emily Dell Revord, director of operations for The Cooperage. 

She says it's helpful for weddings, but wonders if it's a little premature. 

"Hopefully with the vaccine and better weather, cases start to decline. Good news, but also kind of worrisome. There’s still a lot of cases out there and having such a big group in a space is worrisome," she said. 

The new order also makes changes to sports and recreational activities. COVID testing will no longer be required for team and contact sports. Two fans will be allowed for each participant. With an approved safety plan, organizations can have even more people attend events.

The Bucks have submitted a plan. 

Marquette says it's working to get approval on one to allow family members of men's basketball players and staff to attend games. 

"I love our fans. I hope our fans are allowed back in, but more than anything I want their families to be able to be here," said Coach Steve Wojciechowski. 

The new order goes into effect on Feb. 5. 

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