Dane County restaurants, taverns to increase capacity limits tomorrow

MADISON, Wis.– Restaurant and bar capacity limits in Madison and Dane County will jump to the highest they’ve been in nearly a year tomorrow.

Public Health Madison and Dane County’s emergency order 14 will increase capacity limits from 25 to 50 percent for restaurants and from zero to 25 percent for taverns. It goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

“I’m happy that we can at least get a few more people in,” Nick’s Restaurant owner Dino Christ said.

Christ said he won’t be able to host that many people because of his restaurant’s size and layout.

“I won’t be able to get 50 percent and six-feet apart at the exact same time,” Christ said. “So, for me, it’s going to be around 35 percent.”

Downtown Madison, Inc. President Jason Ilstrup said the new order is a big step forward for the city’s local businesses.

“When there’s more capacity, there’s more revenue, you’re able to bring more employees back, and it really is a better position for them to be in now than they were just a few months ago,” Ilstrup said.

Ilstrup said the order coupled with Madison’s “Streatery” Restaurant Relief Program gives hope that the pandemic’s end isn’t too far off.

“(Business owners) need to feel like what they’re going to come back to is going to be stronger than it was in 2020,” Ilstrup said.

The warmer weather helped Nick’s Restaurant reach it’s fully allowed capacity for the first time last weekend.

“I remember having 100 people in here no big deal, and I turn around and I see just 25, 30 people, and I actually got nervous and felt a little busy,” Christ said.

Christ said the order helps, but it won’t change a customer’s comfort level.

“I already see people getting more comfortable about coming inside, but I still think a lot of people outside is going to be the key,” Christ said.

Christ said he thanks the community for their support both on their GoFund Me and in-person. Those donations helped the restaurant survive the winter months.