On March 21, 2021 The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Governor Tony Evers exceeded his authority in issuing multiple public health emergencies over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This means that there is no longer a statewide mask mandate in place.
Keep in mind that even though the statewide public health emergency order was struck down, operators must still follow any local public health orders. WRA advises restaurant operators to check to see if their area has its own mask requirement.
While the statewide mask mandate is no longer in place, WRA advises restaurants to continue to follow the recommendations set forth by the National Restaurant Association, WEDC and FDA in addition to following any local and state mandates. Many customers will still want to see mask use by employees and customers to feel safe. Also, mask requirements help provide liability protection for the business.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act (OSHA), employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Implementing a workplace COVID-19 prevention program is the most effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at work.
National Restaurant Association Guidelines
WEDC General Guidelines
WEDC Guidelines for Restaurants & Foodservice
More Guidelines and Info on the WRA Website
Questions? Email or call the Ask WRA Team at 608-270-9950
It’s hard to believe that a year ago, restaurants were forced to close their dining rooms to “flatten the curve.” We never anticipated two weeks would turn into two months of closed inside dining, much less strict limitations and mandates for more than a year!
Knowing this year has been incredibly challenging to restaurant operators of all sizes, the team at the Wisconsin Restaurant Association has been working hard at the local, state and federal levels to provide critical resources, solutions and tools to support restaurants during this unprecedented time. Below are some of the top accomplishments the team has achieved to date. And while we’ve had many significant wins, our work still continues as we help restaurants recover and return to normal!
$28.6 Billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) is based on the Senate version of the RESTAURANTS Act and the original plan posed by the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association in March, 2020. This fund will help the hardest hit small and medium-sized restaurants kick-start their recovery. The WRA is committed to helping all eligible restaurant owners prepare to successfully apply for RRF grants.
$72+ Billion in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans
At a time when restaurants were most in need of capital, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association partnered with the National Restaurant Association to secure expanded access to forgivable loans on two occasions and to refine the program to meet the specific needs of restaurants.
PPP Deductibility That Saved Restaurants $15.7 Billion
Restaurant operators who used their PPP loans to pay qualified expenses didn’t have to worry about surprise federal tax bills because the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association got this loophole fixed at both the federal and state levels.
Business Liability Protection
WRA worked to get state legislation passed to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits due to COVID-19 – one of the first states to do so.
Free COVID-19 ServSafe Training Modules
The safety experts from the Association’s ServSafe training program immediately stepped in to create much needed COVID-19 training. The free courses have been accessed more than 1.3 million times.
$21.5 Million Restaurant Employee Relief Fund
The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation partnered with celebrity chef Guy Fieri to establish the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF), which provided grants to more than 43,000 restaurant employees.
COVID-19 Operating Guidance and Resources for Restaurants
The WRA, along with the Association’s ServSafe training teams, stepped up to provide restaurants of all sizes with pandemic operating best practices. The COVID Resources continue to be updated as new science-based information becomes available.
Increased Consumer Confidence in On-Premises Dining
The Wisconsin Restaurant Association created the Ready to Serve Safely Campaign and partnered with the National Restaurant Association on consumer ad campaigns welcoming diners back to their favorite local restaurants, highlighting the health and safety practices that operators and employees are implementing.
Education with the Ready to Serve Safely Program
Consumers in Wisconsin can look for the Ready to Serve Safely and/or ServSafe Dining Commitment logos to know that the restaurant is committed to the program’s health and safety best practices and adhering to operating guidance.
Expanded ERTC to Support Employment
Employee Retention Tax Credits (ERTC) are key tax benefits used by many restaurants. Because of a change pursued by the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association, restaurants can now receive up to $19,000 per eligible employee in ERTC across 2020 and 2021.
We’re All In Grants
Helped secure $64 million in state funding for small and medium sized restaurants and bars.
Ordering Up Cocktails-To-Go
The WRA is working to allow cocktails-to-go, securing this lifeline already allowed in 32 states and DC. This proposal has passed the State Assembly and is currently being debated in the Senate. It will be one of the most significant changes to alcohol laws since Prohibition.
Delivery of Alcohol
As with cocktails-to go, there are ongoing efforts to allow the delivery of alcohol with safeguards built in for the normal face-to-face identification verification. Allowed in 40 other states, wouldn’t it be great to offer a six pack of beer with that pizza, or a bottle of wine with the Italian dinner delivered to people’s homes? Restaurants should be able to meet consumer demand through the sale of alcohol with their delivered food.
Permanent Repeal of the Personal Property Tax
In the 2017-2018 budget, a partial repeal of this onerous tax was accomplished. It is now time to finish the work and repeal the remainder of the Personal Property Tax.
September 1 School Start Date
WRA continues to protect the 21-year law that ensures that public K-12 schools start on or after September 1 each year. This law ensures Wisconsin families can take advantage of August’s warm weather for vacations and to allow teen workers to continue working. August is a much busier month for tourism in Wisconsin compared to June, so keeping the September 1 start date is imperative to help restaurants recover.
Let Us Know How We Can Help
WRA continues to support Wisconsin restaurants and represent the restaurant industry's interests. Let us know if there's something we can do to help! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 608-270-9950.
On March 11th, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan which includes $28.6 billion specifically for restaurants as part of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The fund will be administered by the US Small Business Administration (SBA). WRA is grateful to see a program that provides restaurant-specific relief that small and independent restaurants deserve after closures, increased costs and decreased revenues have threatened their ability to stay in business for nearly a year. The RRF reflects our year-long effort together to help restaurants in need and builds on other relief tools that have been provided. WRA will update this website as more details on the RRF are available.
If you think your business qualifies for the RRF, It’s a good idea to start preparing early. Some of the steps can take a couple days or a couple weeks to complete depending upon how fast some of the involved agencies take to respond.
RESOURCES AND INFO ON HOW TO START PREPARING NOW
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recently amended its interpretation of restaurant employees as part of the “food supply chain.” As a result, restaurant employees are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine because they are part of the food supply chain and are in jobs that put them in close contact with the public.
WRA has been advocating for restaurant and foodservice employees to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines for several months. We are gratified that DHS is making it possible for the thousands of restaurant employees statewide to be vaccinated to protect themselves and restaurant customers from COVID-19.
As individuals become eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, we would encourage them to seek an appointment through the variety of outlets available in Wisconsin. This includes:
Employers can help by encouraging their staff to receive the vaccine as they become eligible, and sharing information on where they can find an appointment.
Additional details and resources on COVID-19 vaccinations can be found on the DHS website.
COVID-19 VACCINE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FROM THE ASK WRA TEAM
On Friday, March 12 the State of Wisconsin announced that restaurant employers across the state became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This is wonderful news for our industry! It allows our employees to receive the vaccine and feel more comfortable coming to work and also reaffirms to the dining public that dining out is safe.
Upon hearing this news Friday, I went online and was quickly able to find a community-based clinic offering the vaccine. It was easy to schedule online for a Saturday morning appointment. I arrived at the clinic and filled out the paperwork in minutes. With a short wait, I was led into the vaccine room and received my first dose of theModerna vaccine. The whole process took less than 45 minutes even though the clinic was very busy and about 50 people were ahead of me in line. I was able to schedule my follow up vaccination for a month from now. The only side effect I experienced was a little soreness at the injection site and that has already gone away two days later.
I urge all our members and their staff to consider getting the vaccine as soon as possible. The sooner we can get our employees vaccinated and Wisconsin residents vaccinated, the quicker we can return to normal. This will certainly go a long way to consumer confidence as well making members of the dining public more comfortable dining in with us.
The Packing House Restaurant
WRA Chair of the Board