Wisconsin restaurant workers look ahead to getting vaccine, getting back business

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WAUWATOSA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Restaurant workers now have a shot at getting the COVID-19 shot. The state of Wisconsin added that industry to the eligibility list.

Little by little, downtown Wauwatosa’s night life is coming back. Those with the Wisconsin Restaurant Association hope the decision to get restaurant workers vaccinated will be just what the industry needs to fully rebound.

Restaurants and bars were the first to shut down under the Safer-at-Home order last year. Unemployment hurt.

"It was scary at times,” said Ben Weiss who works at a Sheboygan restaurant.

"There were many times I considered picking up a second or third job just to pay my college tuition and rent,” said Weiss.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the industry is still down more than 2.5 million jobs. In Wauwatosa, carry-out carried restaurants and bars through the tough times. With inside dining open now, general manager of Buckatabon Tavern and Supper Club Tyler Nation says every little bit helps.

"This vaccine is a major step forward for our employees feeling comfortable coming back to work,” said Nation.

As more and more people get vaccinated and the positivity rate in Wisconsin drops, Nation is banking on a summertime boost.

"We're hoping to be fully staffed for summer as you can see our shanties going and we just rolled out our patios so we're real excited getting ready for patio season. If there's one thing Wisconsinites know how to do, it's sit on patios,” said Nation.

Kristine Hillmer is with the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

"Restaurants are the lifeblood of a lot of communities and the fact that they are now in line is really, is wonderful to hear,” said Hillmer.

Initially, Milwaukee public health officials said the city didn’t have enough supply for restaurant workers. The website has now been updated to include food supply personnel.

“Now that you're eligible, now you can put your name on the list for that eligibility. Not sure when it's gonna happen. It could be tomorrow. It could be in a week, we don't know. But now, the fact that you are eligible, you can get on that list and get in cue,” said Hillmer.

The important thing is to get your name on the list.

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