Bars, restaurants left out in the cold forced to find new options

MADISON, Wis.– Restaurant patios popped up all across the city this summer, but soon business owners will be forced to find new options to survive the colder months.

Current COVID-19 restrictions prohibit bars from serving customers indoors, leaving owners with only two options: convert to outdoor dining and take-out or close down.

The Irish Pub on State Street chose to serve customers outdoors this summer, but the lower temperatures could soon leave owner Jess Dye out in the cold.

“We’re solely relying on the patio,” Dye said. “Now, it’s very cold out. We’ll have a few people come through, maybe for a quick beer, but it’s nothing sustainable.”

Many restaurants and bars took advantage of the city’s Streatery Restaurant Relief Program this summer. It allowed some restaurants to block off parts of the street with tables.

That wasn’t an option on State Street, nor were summer events that typically help businesses save up to survive the colder months.

“Winter time down here is slow anyway, but this will be the slowest,” Dye said.

Instead, Dye joined other downtown businesses in creating a GoFund Me page to make up for those losses.

“A big thing for me is that we are never closed. We don’t want to lose our regulars. We don’t want people to forget about us,” Dye said.

Even as fewer people fill their patio seats, the pub intends to stay open for those who wish to stop by.

“Maybe we’ll just have two tables or four tables out, but as long as someone wants to come in and get take-out and drink a beer on the patio while they wait for their food, any little think I can do to help, I will,” Dye said.

The city extended the Streatery Restaurant Relief Program until April 2021.