July 2020

Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions For Restaurants During the Democratic National Convention

What is the scale of this event?

  • 50,000 visitors to Milwaukee
  • Over $200 million economic impact
  • More than 1,500 events throughout the region in just four days
  • Over 400 buses transporting delegates and attendees
  • More than 15,000 hotel rooms in the Greater Milwaukee area and regionally from Kohler to Madison to Lake Geneva and beyond
  • Huge economic opportunity for everyone in and around Milwaukee
  • Businesses big and small from all over the city and around the region playing a part to make this event successful

When is the Convention? When do we expect to see attendees arrive and leave?

  • The Democratic National Convention (DNC) begins Monday, July 13th, and ends Thursday evening, July 16th. Attendees will likely arrive as soon as Friday, July 10th, and largely leave by Friday, July 17th.
  • However, as businesses ramp up to the event, it is likely that some will begin their set-up as far as 2 weeks prior and take down 1 week after, the convention.  

How many people are coming to Milwaukee for the Convention?

  • The City expects approximately 50,000 Convention participants between delegates, media, and other attendees, which is about the equivalent of the Super Bowl for 4 straight days. This is the largest convention that has ever come to Milwaukee.
  • The estimated 50,000 guests are:
    • roughly 6,000 delegates and their families
    • approximately 15,000 media and their support staff
    • numerous large corporations (e.g. Google, Facebook, etc) who are interested in influencing the DNC while in town
  • These visitors will be spread throughout the SE region of the state, not just Milwaukee and the nearby suburbs. Delegates pay their own way to the convention and many times will bring their families as they use it as a vacation, so don’t discount the possibility of additional day-time activity from people not directly attending the convention who are looking for fun activities

Where does the Convention take place?

  • The Convention takes place at the Fiserv Forum in the evening hours. While the final schedule has not been released, traditionally, the hours have been from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m each day.  Delegate breakfasts, smaller caucuses and council meetings will occur during work hours at the Wisconsin Center District, area delegate hotels, and various private event locations. 

Specifically for restaurants and bars, what advice should owners heed?

  • Stay in your lane – if you don’t typically serve breakfast, it probably is not a good thing to add
  • If you cater, this is a great opportunity – consider who you can partner with that may need catering capacity
  • Depending on your location, your business hours may need to change or be flexible to meet the needs of your potential customers
  • Look at how you can market to the delegates in your area, especially if you are not downtown
  • Let staff know now that no time off will be granted this week
  • Start building any reserve staff now – are there friends, neighbors or people off of school that you can call as back up for various events? Are there teachers who may be off for the summer that can be used as reserve staff for large events and special occasions? Workforce is tight now and will be event tighter during the event

What sorts of events will be held and how will they possibly impact restaurants and bars?

  • There will be breakfasts, lunches, dinners, hospitality rooms, open houses, private parties, after hours receptions, concerts, catered meals, etc.
  • The closer you are to Fiserv Forum, the more possibility there is to have some disruption to your normal business. Things to consider to mitigate and manage the different schedule:
    • If you are within the security zone, you and your staff will need to go through a security checkpoint. Make sure your staff are considering a possible delay when determining when to head to work. 
    • The public will have access to downtown and we encourage them to come down. However, due to the volume of people, traffic and parking restrictions, it may be a little harder for them to get to your place. Consider watch parties or dinner specials to encourage visits to your restaurant, especially during the hours when delegates are ‘in session.’
    • Parking limitations for you, your staff and customers will probably be more difficult. Public transportation or remote parking will likely be advisable and available as we get closer to the event. As we hear more, information will be shared via the WRA, VISIT Milwaukee, and DNC websites, as well as through local media outlets.
    • Food, beverage and supply deliveries may be different from the normal pattern you’re used to. Work with your suppliers on a schedule that makes sense and ensures that you take custody of all food products and store them properly for safe food handling and safe food security purposes.

How can restaurants be considered for these events?

  • The Good Land Committee (the official name for the DNC Host Committee in Milwaukee) is developing an exclusive list of restaurants for those who are not familiar with the area to connect for possible business. To become an exclusive vendor requires a contract with the committee that does come with a cost as a percentage of the resulting contract. Remember that they are providing a marketing service for facilities and do vet the groups to ensure that they are legitimate. This may be a very good option for many venues, but be sure to read the contract carefully so you understand the requirements and stipulations of the contract. A copy of the contract is on the WRA Webpage that includes these FAQs. Further questions on the terms of the contract can be sent to dncchospitality@milwaukee2020.com.

Where will convention delegates be spending their time?

  • Most delegates will spend breakfast hours at their hotel for state delegate meetings. Many delegates will then travel to downtown Milwaukee for various caucuses during the day and all will then travel to the Fiserv Forum for the evening. Following the Convention, delegates will be bussed back to various private events and/or their hotels. We expect many delegates to remain in close proximity to their accommodations when the official events are not being held, so it is likely some will visit local restaurants and bars before they head to or when they return from their scheduled events.

Should I expect a rush from Convention business?

  • Restaurant owners should note that most delegates will eat at their hotels during breakfast meetings and all delegates will be at the Fiserv Forum Monday through Thursday during dinner hours. Many delegates will be provided lunch during caucuses at the Convention Center or surrounding facilities. Some delegates may seek out late-night bites following the Convention proceedings, which have traditionally concluded at 11p.m.
  • To take advantage of the late night schedule, it’s highly suggested that you build a relationship with nearby hotels so that should they be a delegate hotel, they can refer customers to you … assuming that you change your business hours to accommodate an alternate schedule.
  • While delegates will be busy during mealtimes, thousands of members of the media will be coming to town and many delegates are traveling with family or other attendees. We also expect many attendees to arrive the weekend prior to the event before the Convention, lunchtime caucuses, and breakfast meetings formally begin.  Additionally, we expect a close-to-normal number of local customers during the week of DNC.

If the state legislature passes a bill allowing for the sale of liquor after 2AM, do I have to obtain a permit to sell liquor at my restaurant or bar during those extended hours?

  • The WRA is currently working on legislation that would allow bars and restaurants to remain open until 4 am during the week of the convention, only. This has been done at many past large political conventions held elsewhere and is meant to allow our Milwaukee hospitality to shine through to these visitors, who will have different free time hours than people who typically work and live here. Note that most of the conventioneers will not be driving. Rather they are taking their buses back to hotels, utilizing mass transportation, or taking an Uber/taxi/Lyft to their final destinations.
  • Additionally, you may need to apply for your establishment to temporarily change operating hours with your local municipality. Each city and town has a little different process so checking with your local government on their restrictions, need for, or process to change hours will be important. However, until it’s know if bar time is changed, it is premature to make any changes.

Are there any changes to trash, recycling, or other city services during the DNC?

  • At this time, all city services are expected to operate as scheduled. If that changes, the information will be available as soon as we find out. Changes will also likely to be posted on the City of Milwaukee website and through various media channels.

Will it be difficult for people to get around? Will highways or streets be closed during the DNC?

  • Due to the concentration of activity new Fiserv Forum during the day, we encourage all residents and visitors to take public transit instead of driving.
  • At this time, we do not anticipate extended road or highway closures other than the areas closest to the Fiserv Forum and the security perimeter. There is, however, the possibility of rolling closures due to dignitary movements or protests. 
  • As already noted, expect traffic restrictions near the Fiserv Forum. As we get closer to the event, it will be critical to communicate with your suppliers on when they will have the ability to deliver food, supplies and beverages to your establishment. Within the security zone may be off limits to deliveries during normal business hours.

Will there be special parking or towing restrictions?

  • The closer you are to the Fiserv Forum, the more likely you will need alternative parking options. It is doubtful that you will have parking options within the security zone. As we get closer to the event, there should be more information about remote parking and mass transit options for you, your staff, and potential customers.

What if I have questions that are not answered here?