Wisconsin Restaurant Association says half of restaurants will go under with the governor’s new capacity order

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Some restaurants in Milwaukee are left shocked after hearing the governor’s new order. The new order going into effect Oct. 8 limits gatherings to no more than 25-percent of a room or building’s total occupancy. It includes restaurants, bars and businesses allowing the public.

Milwaukee restaurants who wanted in-person dining were required to submit COVID-19 safety plans, and some were granted greater capacity once plans were approved.

Owner of Casablanca restaurant on Milwaukee’s east side, Nas Musa, says he was starting to feel hopeful his restaurant would be able to have more than 50-percent capacity by November once his plan was approved, but now he may not be able to pay the bills.

“At 25-percent it’s like good God be with us, you know, it’s going to be hard,” said Musa.

Musa’s restaurant had a capacity of 475, so he was able to operate safely and profitably at half capacity, but he says going to 25-percent will hurt.

“Were paying the bills and you know we’re making little extra cash, but going back to 25-percent? Now it’s barely making the bills,” he added.

“I think it’s safe to say that right now the city of Milwaukee restaurants are feeling blindsided,” said Kristine Hillmer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

As of Friday, Oct.2, 850 Milwaukee restaurant safety plans were already submitted to the city with more than 315 approved.

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association says the new order is devastating.

“All the work that Milwaukee restaurants have done to keep people safe and their doors open are for naught,” added Hillmer.

Musa was hopeful for more business soon.

“I understand why they’re doing it, but it would’ve been a little helpful if we had a little notice of course and we were booking small events and hiring new staff,” said Musa.

Hillmer says Governor Tony Evers has put out some grant opportunities, but the money may not come soon enough.

”You have to apply and you have to sustain your business until you get it and then who knows what kind of strings are attached to it,” added Hillmer.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has also launched the Restart 2.0 Program to help small businesses with costs.

“I advise that you take any opportunity you can take, I mean any loans, grants, whatever,” said Musa.  

“It’s going to be truly brutal to anybody who is in the business,” said Hillmer.

Before the order, Hillmer said 37-percent of restaurants were expected to close within six months, but now she expects half of restaurants to go under if there’s no additional help.

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