Businesses find hope with new Madison 'Streetery Program'

New outdoor seating permit allows Madison restaurants and cafes to operate at what would be...
New outdoor seating permit allows Madison restaurants and cafes to operate at what would be full capacity. (NBC15)
Published: Jun. 15, 2020 at 7:17 PM CDT
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On Monday, Dane County started phase two of its re-opening plan. Restaurants and cafes can now seat customers inside up to 50% capacity.

However, there's also a city program that's giving those business owners a little help outside to make up for lost revenue.

"Until this point, we were dead in the water for nearly three months," co-owner of the Weary Traveler Freehouse, Christopher Berge said. "The 25% restriction, the 50% restriction, those are almost meaningless, because we're having a difficult enough time getting people to come out to eat."

But that has changed. Now that the city of Madison created the ‘Streetery Program’ to help businesses stay open. It's a permit that allows restaurant and cafe owners to expand or create outdoor seating into parking lots, along city sidewalks, or sometimes into the street.

“This [was] our second weekend,” co-owner of Daisy’s Café and Cupcakery Kathy Brooks said. "We did way better than we thought we would for a Sunday. It was so busy; we actually ran out of food and we had to close."

Brookes said the expanded seating outside, plus a 50% capacity limit for indoor seating means her cafe will be able to seat customers at full capacity, pushing her back on track.

"This last Saturday, we did exactly the right amount of sales we would have done before the pandemic," Brooks said.

Berge said the Streetery permit was the lifeline he needed to stay afloat.

"Without [my] landlord, the PPP money and outdoor seating, the Weary Traveler would've never opened again." Berge said.

There are also designated 'Cafe Zones' closer to the capital that would shut down entire streets so seating can occupy the street. As of 12 p.m. Monday, Madison city employees said they've approved 20 permits and have 18 pending, but they’re receiving more every hour.