‘2020 has not been good to the industry’: Bars, restaurants turn to fundraising to make it to next year

MADISON, Wis. – With the number of coronavirus cases rising and temperatures in Wisconsin dipping, many small businesses will be thankful if they can get through the winter.

“It’s a strange world now,” said Ken Boll, owner of Cask & Ale, a whiskey lounge on State Street. “2020 has not been good to the industry.”

In a world where many just try to make it through the work day, Boll goes against the grain.

“This is what I do fulltime, and I love it,” he said. “It’s sad because I dumped a lot of my blood, sweat and tears into this place. I don’t want to see it go.”

Instead, he just wants to make it through the winter.

“We did the patio. We’ve done everything we could to maintain from early on,” Boll said. “It’s hard to get people to sit outside in 20 degree weather and drink nice whiskey and enjoy it.”

Now the patio is closed, along with the bar itself temporarily.

“It’s sad. We don’t have food orders. We can’t sell stuff to go, really,” Boll said. “We may try to do cocktail kits for the holiday season, but other than that, we have really no product we can sell and keep us afloat.”

“If only (businesses) can hold on through winter,” said Moses Altsech, a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Business and owner of Moses Altsech Consulting. “With the great news about the vaccines and impending availability of them, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Altsech said restaurants that can are finding ways to adapt to stay open, from outdoor heating to food delivery.

For places that can’t, he said support from customers with the means can mean the world, may it be through purchasing gift cards or a donation.

“Why not support them?” Altsech said. “If you can picture yourself going back there and eating live in person with your friends in a few months, why not support them so they’re around in a few months?”

He pointed out that more and more spots are starting GoFundMe pages to keep from closing for good, including Cask & Ale.

Posted by Cask & Ale on Friday, November 20, 2020

“It’s hard,” Boll said. “I didn’t want to ask for money. I don’t want to get emotional, but it’s been awesome seeing donations.”

He’s hopeful they will help get him through the winter so he can spend his days working at the bar for years to come.

“I want to be here for 50 or 60 years,” Boll said. “I want to give this to my son, if he wants it.”

Both Boll and Altsech said they’re hopeful government leaders can agree on some financial help for small businesses to help them survive the winter.