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Coronavirus: Restaurants Face Potential Loss Of Employees, Revenue Amid Shutdowns

Chuck Quirmbach
Due to the coronavirus, the Blues Egg restaurant in Milwaukee, like many other restaurants across Wisconsin and the United States, is only open for to-go business.

Industries across the United States are making the recommended adjustments to their daily operations to try and help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Wisconsin is no exception.

On Tuesday, Gov. Tony Evers ordered a ban on gatherings of 10 or more people. Also effective Tuesday: restaurants can only offer take-out or delivery services. 

>>The Latest WUWM & NPR Coronavirus Coverage

This is all happening as the number of Wisconsinites with confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, rises. As of Wednesday, state health officials say the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 grew to 106 in Wisconsin — up from 72 people on Tuesday. 

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association is taking the mandates seriously. 

"We are helping our operators understand this very, very fluid situation as quickly as we can, knowing that once we might tell somebody something, one hour later it’s going to be different," Kristine Hillmer, president and CEO of Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

The impact of bar and restaurant closures on employees is a major concern as workers are being laid off or having their hours reduced.

Dominic Strack, the general manager of three restaurants at the Mayfair Collection in Wauwatosa — ABV Social, Cafe Grace and Taqueria El Jefe. For now, he says employees haven’t been let go. Instead, the restaurants are shifting into “takeout-only” mode.

Credit Dominic Strack
The delivery setup for the three storefronts Dominic Strack manages at the Mayfair Collection in Wauwatosa.

But Strack isn’t sure how much they’ll make with the dining rooms closed. He says that’s the primary source of revenue.

"We are still working on what is the best solution for our employees. So, we’re in talks with our [human resources] company that we get advice from to see what their suggestion to be would be the best thing for us to do," Strack says.

"I feel responsible for all of their well-beings ... I know a lot of them have children, they have family so I know a lot that will be affected." - Dominic Strack, general manager of three Wisconsin restaurants

He says hourly workers are still on the job, helping to consolidate the three businesses into one operation or helping clean.

"I feel responsible for all of their well-beings and trying to think about it, to find their best interest. I know a lot of them have children, they have family so I know a lot that will be affected, so I’m just trying to empathize with them, put myself in that position for our hourly employees," he says.

Strack says it’s just something to take day by day.

At this point, it’s too early to determine how many restaurant workers will be affected by the coronavirus as it spreads or whether they’ll be eligible for government assistance. 

Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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