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Odd Duck restaurant in Bay View now requires proof of vaccination for dining in

Image courtesy of Odd Duck
Chef/Odd Duck co-owner Ross Bachhuber preps food in the open kitchen. The restaurant recently announced that it will require proof of full vaccination for all guests over 18.

The surge of COVID-19 cases continues throughout the city of Milwaukee, prompting some businesses to change their policies to mitigate health risks.

Odd Duck restaurant in Bay View announced on Jan. 2 that it will require proof of full vaccination for all guests over 18. A vaccine requirement for staff has already been in place.

"What immediately led to our choice to require vaccinations was the omicron variant," says Odd Duck co-owner Melissa Buchholz.

More Milwaukee restaurants are starting to require proof of vaccination from dine-in customers, but Odd Duck was the first to set the stage.

"About 15 days ago, we had a bunch of staff members just one after the other test positive in the course of a week. We ended up having to close the restaurant," says Buchholz.

She said they used that time to not only deep clean the restaurant, but think about how they should change their safety operations.

"So even though we had enough staff to stay open, we also realized that we kind of needed to make some adjustments because all of a sudden what we were doing wasn't working," notes Buchholz.

Now, Odd Duck only accepts reservations for dining in both for tables and bar seating, and patrons are required to wear their masks if they leave their table as a sign of respect.

Buchholz says her clientele has been willing to follow this new model for the most part. Still, she says the restaurant receives a little backlash online.

"It doesn't matter if you believe in masks or vaccines. If enough of your staff gets sick and has to stay home because they're too sick to work, you're still closed," says Buchholz.

Odd Duck's decision is a clear example of how restaurants have planned around the absence of COVID-19 guidelines from the city. And Buchholz says it's not just their restaurant who feels there's been a lack of leadership on the issue either. She notes it's common for fellow restaurant owners to check in with each other when accommodating operation guidelines because of the pandemic.

"I think that's a huge concern for restaurants because there's no longer any extra unemployment for our people. If we do have to shut down for a while, there's no help for us to pay them," says Buchholz. "You just feel constantly like you're stuck between a rock and a hard place."

Despite new hurdles placed by the Omicron variant, she says Odd Duck's daily goal is to still bring their customers joy. It's something that the restaurant is really good at and committed to doing.

"We still think that community spaces are really important for people. You feel a part of your community because you're sitting in a restaurant full of people you know, who are also part of your community. So we're going to keep doing that and do it as best we can as safe as we can into the future," says Buchholz.

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Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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