Bars, restaurants adapt to ever-changing virus mandates

Nicole Aimone, Editor-in-Chief

As Gov. Evers’ early October order to keep bars and restaurants indoor capacity limited bounces through the courts, a few Spring Green businesses reflect on how the constantly changing COVID-19 mandates and restrictions have affected them. 

On Oct. 6, Evers released a mandate stating that bars and restaurants throughout the state would be required to return serving and hosting 25% of their indoor capacity. 

The original order was set to take effect on Oct. 8 and end Nov. 6. 

On Oct. 13 the Wisconsin League of Tavern’s filed a lawsuit to block the order, citing economic hardship. 

Sawyer County Judge John Yackel sided with the tavern league, issuing a temporary restraining order blocking the order on Oct. 14. 

Barron County Circuit Court Judge James Babler repealed the restraining order, making the order effective again on Oct. 19. 

While the Tavern League did not appeal the Circuit Court decision, The Mix up, Inc, a bar and restaurant near Eau Claire and the restaurant’s owner did. 

On Oct. 23 the District 3 court of appeals again blocked the order. 

While restaurants are not legally required to limit indoor capacity to 25% currently, Wynn Dedrick, owner of The Shed in downtown Spring Green, said the restaurant has continuously only allowed 25% capacity for indoor dining. 

“We haven’t changed anything, we’ve been at 25% the whole time, we haven’t needed to go above that,” said Dedrick. 

While the restaurant has remained at 25% capacity, and Dedrick has not had to constantly adapt to the changing mandate, she said adapting to community need after reopening for carry out in March was the biggest challenge. 

“We laid off everybody, after a week and a half we brought the kitchen staff back and we did carryouts, and then a month after that we brought the bartenders back,” said Dedrick. “Our first couple weeks on Friday nights we couldn’t keep up [with the number of orders].” 

Dedrick said the restaurant has been lucky to be able to offer the patio for outdoor dining options, but wonders how that will affect service once the weather turns cold. 

“It might be a little different now that we don’t have a patio, so that’s now but people aren’t coming out like they were,” said Dedrick. “We’re getting a lot of carryouts, our carry outs have been phenomenal. They want to support us, they want to keep us here.” 

Under state mandate, patrons are required to wear masks in restaurants when they are not eating or drinking. Dedrick said about 95% of patrons have complied with the rule. 

For the Slowpoke Lounge and Cabaret in downtown Spring Green, owners Michael Broh and Stacy Woods are in no hurry to up the number of people allowed in. 

The restaurant has remained at allowing 25% capacity since reopening in June, which Woods estimates around 25 people. 

“It’s brutal, like every place in town that relies on tourism traffic, we missed all the APT crowd and a lot of the cast and crew would hang out here, that was a big loss,” said Broh. “Based on what the Governor is saying and the numbers, we’re deep on the side of ‘let’s be careful’, but this isn’t what the bar isn’t intended for.” 

Over the summer, the bar offered outdoor picnic tables in front of the building and an outdoor beer garden behind the building. 

“Summer doesn’t hurt, people are more likely to be outside in the summer,” said Broh. “Giving people a place to go, those tables in the street made a big difference.” 

Normally, the establishment would host around two or three live performances a week, which Bartender Robert Doyle said would yield about 90-100% capacity. 

“It’s been weird, we can’t have the bands right now because of the pandemic, it’s just really weird, not knowing what the future is going to be,” said Doyle. “The up and downs for us have really been not being able to have bands in here, I mean, we’re a music venue.” 

While the business was closed from mid-March to June, Doyle said the owners found ways to provide work and pay for him during the shut down. 

Customer Joe Bradford said he and his wife Tara Bradford and some of their friends would visit the Slowpoke a few times a month. 

“It definitely made us hesitant,” said Bradford. “It’s refreshing to be back out and nice to socialize.” 

Bradford said he is looking forward to the bar starting up events again, especially trivia night.