UPDATE: Culinary no-no #671


Previously on This Just In…the challenges the troubled restaurant industry faces as winter looms.

The update:

This Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article requires a subscription, but here’s an important excerpt:

Many restaurant patrons prefer dining outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. And that option becomes less attractive as Wisconsin temperatures drop and snow begins falling.

Milwaukee restaurateurs are seeking more help from City Hall.

They want Milwaukee’s outdoor street dining program to continue beyond its Nov. 15 expiration date.

Meanwhile, a group that supports downtown businesses is working on a marketing campaign to persuade people that outdoor drinking, dining and other activities can still be fun even when the cold wind howls.

“This is about enjoying winter outside,” said Beth Weirick, Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District chief executive officer.

Many patrons do not want to dine indoors, said Dave Swanson, who operates Braise Restaurant and Culinary School at 1101 S. 2nd St., in Walker’s Point.

Swanson saw the strong preference for outdoor dining during the recent period of below-normal temperatures.

That brought some people inside at Braise, he said.

“But it’s not to the level we’d like,” Swanson said.

That’s a big deal. 

In normal, pre-pandemic times, Braise generally seats up to 150 people inside — with legal capacity for over 200 diners. That’s now limited to 48 people.

Still, it’s more than what Braise can serve outside.

Braise has seating for 12 people on its sidewalk, with room for eight people on its rooftop deck.

Swanson is taking steps to keep serving people outside during the fall and winter.

He plans to put an awning over the sidewalk dining area and add portable heaters.

Meanwhile, he’s installing a heated rooftop greenhouse with room for up to 16 people, as well as two heated domes that would each seat up to six diners.

One issue is how the city would handle snow removal with parking lane seating, also known as “parklets.”

“You could get one big snowfall and a plow comes through and totally destroys your parklet,” said restaurant and tavern owner Michael Vitucci.

Good luck with that.

I don’t care what marketing campaign they come up with. You’re not going to sell me (and I’m sure many others) on dining outdoors in Milwaukee during November, December, January, and February.

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