Steny’s temporarily closes after COVID-19 exposure

Bar to be deep cleaned, all employees to get tested before reopening

Onlookers inside Steny's Tavern & Grill.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2020 at 03:00 pm

Less than one month after reopening its doors to the public in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Steny’s Tavern & Grill in Walker’s Point has again closed temporarily.

The bar announced via Facebook Tuesday that someone with COVID-19 had entered the building.

“In the abundance of caution, we have voluntarily decided to close down until we have deep cleaned the bar in its entirety and have every staff member tested,” according to the post.¬†

In an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee on Wednesday, owner Jerry Stenstrup said he’s not sure if the positive case was an employee or a patron.

He said the bar had been following health and safety guidelines, including requiring employees to wear face masks and have their temperature taken before work. Employees are also instructed to stay home if they are feeling ill.

“But people have their own lives, too, and when they leave Steny’s they do what they normally do,” said Stenstrup. “They’re not living in a bubble, so we don’t know where or how any of this stuff is coming or going.”

He said Steny’s had attempted to follow capacity limits by reducing tables and bar seating by half, allowing no more than 50 people inside the bar at once. And the bar has additional space for patrons to spread out with outdoor seating in its beer garden and sidewalk.

“We tried to do everything we could,” said Stenstrup.

He said Steny’s will continue to follow those protocols when it reopens, likely sometime next week once all employees have been tested. Employees will also be asked to try to limit contact with other people in order to avoid another incident like this one.

The bar is currently considering whether it will offer curbside to-go service while in-house service is shut down.

Stenstrup said business has been steady since the city allowed bars and restaurants to open dining rooms at 25% capacity in early June. But as a sports bar without any live sports to stream, it’s hardly been busy or crowded. The bar has been around for 35 years, so it has a loyal base of regulars to rely on, he said.

Steny’s took to Facebook on June 4, calling on customers to sign a petition to open bars and restaurants in the city of Milwaukee. At the time establishments in most of the state, including Milwaukee County’s 18 suburbs, had been open to the public for weeks, while reopening date had not yet been set for businesses in the city.

“Our livelihood is on the line. Bars and restaurants are shutting down every single day. It is not fair that bars/restaurants a mile away from us are open,” Steny’s wrote.

The petition asked¬†Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to announce a reopening timeline for the city’s bars and restaurants, stating, “We question the constitutionality of the order and the limitations on our individual liberties.”

Today, bars and restaurants in Milwaukee can operate at 50% capacity under phase four of the City’s reopening plan. Businesses that have their COVID-19 safety plan approved by the Health Department are allowed to drop the capacity limit all together.

Meanwhile, Dane County on Wednesday moved to tighten restrictions on bars and restaurants after an increase in local COVID-19 cases. Starting Thursday, indoor seating capacity will be reduced from 50% to 25%.

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe Meyer started as an intern reporter at BizTimes in summer 2015. She currently covers entertainment, sports, tourism and restaurants. In May 2017, she graduated with a journalism degree from Marquette University where she worked as an in-depth projects reporter for the Marquette Wire and Marquette Tribune.

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