Since Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers ordered a ban on gatherings of 10 or more people and restaurants are limited to only take-out and delivery services, business has been slow at many food establishments.
Food retailers that don't have dining rooms — think your local bakery or ice cream shop — are also hurting from the coronavirus pandemic. While these types of establishments are exempt from having to shut their doors as long as they don't let people linger in seating areas, the shops WUWM talked to say business is down.
The decision to shut down dine-in areas as a means of social distancing started in some places slightly before Evers issued the mandate on Tuesday. Eleven of Milwaukee County's 19 municipalities acted late on Monday, after a meeting of the Intergovernmental Municipalities Committee.
Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy is head of the organization. He says, “Six more [cities] went the next morning before Evers announcement even came out — all but one of the municipalities in Milwaukee County had already closed bars and restaurants.”
Kennedy says at the Monday meeting, committee members talked about how larger cities like Chicago and New York were closing bars and restaurants in an effort to prevent COVID-19. With St. Patrick's Day on Tuesday, they didn't want to wait.
Becky Berger, with Yo Mamma! Frozen Yogurt, says while the shops in Wauwatosa and Brookfield aren't required to close, traffic has been down substantially as the coronavirus has spread. “So we're still open with modified business hours. It has died to pretty much, I'd say even less than what we would get in the dead of winter,” she says.
But Berger says businesses like hers aren't giving up, instead they're trying strategies to keep customers, while respecting social distancing. "We understand the need to keep our distance and so curbside delivery is something that we're doing, even though it's not anything we would normally ever do. But we're trying anything we can at this point to keep our staff employed,” Berger says.
Some food retailers are getting even more creative. Purple Door Ice cream, which has locations in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point and Sherman Park neighborhoods, will start giving away education packets for kids with instructions for science experiments, like those that use dry ice.
Purple Door owner Lauren Schultz and her husband, Steve, are former educators. She says, “[Parents] are looking for things to do at home with the kids and this kind of a just a natural progression of that.”
The packets will be given to parents who buy pre-packed containers of ice cream — starting next week.
PD is stocked with prepackaged ice cream sammies, 4-oz ice cream cups & pints.
In our current global situation, Purple Door is taking additional measures to maintain the safety and health of our customers, employees and ice cream shops.
Stay healthy, Milwaukee! pic.twitter.com/44vhLSvZGD
— PurpleDoorIceCream (@PurpledoorIC) March 14, 2020
Erica Elia, owner of Classy Girl Cupcakes in downtown Milwaukee, says her store has seen a nosedive in sales lately. So, she says, they’re offering parents a chance to bake with their kids — without having to go to the grocery store — by selling pre-packaged mixes.
And, in a measure to keep employees and patrons safe, Elia says she’s giving customers the option to pick up cupcakes from her home porch, including birthday treats.
“I just feel really bad for all the kids who have birthdays that are getting canceled and I just have to sit home and nothing on their special day, it's really hard,” Elia laments.
Due to public health concerns, we are closing our seating area and will pack all orders to go. Exceptions made for wedding consultations, we’ll stand 6 feet away from you? We’re still here for you Milwaukee, and appreciate your support! We deliver and offer curbside pickup!? pic.twitter.com/AOwSTQPium
— Classy Girl Cupcakes (@CGCupcakesMKE) March 16, 2020
To help restaurants retain customers during this unusual time, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced a restaurant roadside pickup program Wednesday. It lets businesses with established practices get free signage to create curbside pick-up zones.
So if you find yourself getting a little stir crazy while practicing social distancing, you might want to consider a curbside pick up to cheer yourself up while helping a local business.
For the time being, WUWM's Bubbler Talk is focusing on the coronavirus and its impact on the Milwaukee area. If you have a question, submit it below.