Milwaukee-based The Bartolotta Restaurants will cease operations “until further notice,” co-founder Paul Bartolotta announced Thursday night.
The company has been operating its restaurants this week with curbside service, as required of all restaurants in the state by mandate from Gov. Tony Evers to maintain social distancing in an attempt to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus (Evers announced Thursday night that two people, the first in the state, have died from the virus).
Even operating with curbside service only, Bartolotta said he determined it was too difficult to operate the company's restaurants safely for its employees.
“We pledged to transition our restaurants to curbside service in order to provide food for our guests and in doing so allowing us to provide family meals for our employees,” he said. “We have quickly realized it would not be enough to ‘flatten the community spread curve.’ That is why I have made the painful and difficult decision to cease operations, including curbside service, at all Bartolotta Restaurants starting after service tonight, March 19, 2020, until further notice.
“We know we need to be part of the solution and lead by example in our community,” Bartolotta said. “We hope our actions show we care deeply for our employees and encourage more people to stay home. We also hope it signals our government that we are ready for them to take stronger actions regarding social distancing and separation. We believe this is the best course of action for your safety, the safety of your families, and the safety of our employees.”
The Bartolotta Restaurants employs more than 950 people in the Milwaukee area and has 10 restaurants in the area, including Lake Park Bistro, Ristorante Bartolotta, Mr. B's, Joey Gerard's, Bacchus and Harbor House, plus catering facilities.
“We are taking steps to ensure that our employees and their families have the food and the benefits they need to manage through this difficult time,” Bartolotta said. “We have continued to pay salaried employees and will do so for as long as it is possible.”
Bartolotta Restaurant will also offer medical benefits to all of its employees through March 31. The company will extend benefits through April 30 if there is no government assistance offered to employees, Bartolotta said.
In addition, the company will distribute its food supply to employees, he said.