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Milwaukee Bars And Restaurants Can Reopen Friday Afternoon — With Restrictions

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Someplace Else II bar and restaurant offers sanitizer to its customers and has taken social distancing measure to make customers feel safer as it adjusts to reopening on May 15 in Elkhorn, Wis. On Friday, Milwaukee bars and restaurants can also reopen.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says COVID-19 remains a threat, but there have been enough improvements in testing, tracing and other benchmarks to advance the city to Phase 3 of its Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely Plan. That means a number of Milwaukee businesses can expand their operations beginning Friday.

As of 2 p.m. Friday, bars and restaurants will be allowed to open their doors for indoor seating for the first time since mid-March. The number of customers must not exceed 25% of each restaurant’s capacity.

>>Latest WUWM & NPR Coronavirus Coverage

Barrett says other businesses, including child care facilities, will be able to increase capacity to 50% of maximum occupancy with a maximum of 250 people. Public and private gatherings will be allowed at 25% capacity with a maximum of 250 people.

He says all requirements that have been in place regarding reducing contact among customers and employees, increasing cleaning and sanitation, and managing traffic will remain in place.

In addition to the news rules for businesses, on Friday the city will release new guidance and requirements for summer programs serving youth.

"No one wants to see their business singled out as a hotspot."

Barrett calls the changes a “cautious” step forward.

“The bad news is, of course, the disease is out there … and unfortunately, it remains very, very strong. Cases are still appearing. Hospitals still have not seen a major drop in COVID patients,” Barrett says.

The mayor says city officials are counting on business owners to make smart decisions.

“We will be monitoring and responding to complaints appropriately,” Barrett says. “No one wants to see their business singled out as a hotspot. That’s not good for business, it’s obviously not good for public health, it’s not good for individuals.”

The Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely Plan is based on trends in COVID-19 cases, access to testing, hospital capacity to handle COVID-19 patients, adequate personal protective equipment for health care and other key personnel, and tracing of COVID-19 cases and outbreaks.

As of Thursday afternoon, 288 people in Milwaukee County had died of COVID-19. There were 8,463 positive tests for the coronavirus.

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Ann-Elise is WUWM's news director.
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