As mask mandate warnings are issued, some restaurant safety plans approved in Milwaukee

Health Department responds to public complaints

Milwaukee-based online clothing retailer Wantable has used its crowd-sourcing technology and 75,000-square-foot fulfillment center to distribute 20,000 hand-sewn face masks since mid-March.
Milwaukee-based online clothing retailer Wantable has used its crowd-sourcing technology and 75,000-square-foot fulfillment center to distribute 20,000 hand-sewn face masks since mid-March.

While several businesses in the city of Milwaukee have received mask mandate warnings, others have been approved to continue in-person operations.

As of Aug. 4, the City of Milwaukee Health Department has issued warnings to nine businesses in response to repeated complaints that those businesses were not complying with the local mask mandate, said commissioner Jeanette Kowalik during a Milwaukee County update on COVID-19 earlier this week. 

According to the department, warning letters have been issued to the following businesses:

  • Sunrise Foods, 2879 N. Weil St.
  • USPS, 3600 N. Holton St.
  • Pick ‘n Save, 1100 E. Garfield Ave.
  • Milwaukee Pedal Tavern, 820 S. Water St.
  • East Side Maytag Coin Laundry, 2009 E. Kenilworth Place
  • Gold Diggers, 4750 N. Hopkins St.
  • Ace Food Market, 5035 W. Center St.
  • BP gas station, 5912 W. Oklahoma Ave.
  • McDonald’s, 1614 E. North Ave.

Kowalik said an initial complaint is addressed with education and general conversation with the operator. Repeated complaints result in an official warning notice, followed by a citation, in which the business is fined everyday it’s not compliant.

She said hopefully those nine businesses can “get it together.”  

“We have received additional complaints, mainly about restaurant-bar types of situations,” she said. “We know that it’s summertime and people want to live their life in some way, shape and form, but we have to do it in a safe way.”

Last week, the city moved into ‘Phase 4.1’ of its COVID-19 public health and business reopening plan. The order was updated to include the citywide mask mandate, which took effect July 16. A statewide mask mandate was issued July 30.

Phase 4.1 also includes a new requirement of bars and restaurants to submit a COVID-19 safety plan to the city Health Department by Sept. 15, in order to continue in-person dining service both indoors and outdoors.

Bars and restaurants had the option of submitting a safety plan for approval under previous reopening phase to bypass the city-mandated 50% capacity limit and operate at 100% capacity. That’s not necessarily the case in Phase 4.1 as each restaurant is required to follow the specific protocols laid out in its own plan, rather than citywide restrictions.

Kowalik said Tuesday that the city has so far received 42 plans, and have approved 11. According to the Health Department, the following establishments’ COVID-19 safety plans have been approved:

  • Hawthorne Coffee/ FoxFire food truck, 4177 S. Howell Ave.
  • Zilli Lake & Gardens event venue (Coast and Miller Room), 910 E. Michigan St.
  • Jacks American Pub, 1323 E. Brady St. 
  • Café Benelux, 346 N. Broadway
  • Café Centraal, 2306 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
  • Café Hollander, 2608 N. Downer Ave.
  • Carnevor, 718 N. Milwaukee St.
  • Milwaukee Brat House, 1013 N. Old World 3rd St.
  • Camp Bar, 525 E. Menomonee St.
  • Camp Site 131, 131 N. Jackson St.
  • Deer Camp, 1023 N. Old World 3rd St.

According to the Health Department website, safety plans must address workplace policies and practices to protect employee health, physical distancing, infection control, customer service and dining areas, food safety, facility operations and communication with the public.

Operators who don’t receive initial approval on their plan are required to make adjustments based on the Health Department’s feedback and resubmit for review. Once approved, the operator receives a certificate or seal from the Milwaukee Health Department. It’s not clear how the city plans to enforce each plan after approval.

Kowalik encouraged operators not to wait until the Sept. 15 deadline to submit their plans.

“Please submit your plans now so that we can start reviewing and approving them,” she said. “We have the staffing bandwidth. We brought additional staffing on board. We are providing overtime to staff be able to knock these plans out.”

The Health Department is hosting a two-hour virtual webinar on Aug. 6 to assist restaurant and bar owners in writing their COVID-19 safety plans.

Bars and restaurants that do not comply with the requirement to submit a COVID-19 safety plan could receive a written warning, citation or mark of noncompliance on any future license application submitted to the city.

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Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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