September, 2020. The NFL is back, and we miss the Packers. We want to sit among the bleachers of Lambeau, we want to cheer. But September of 2020 has brought more than football back to Green Bay, Wisconsin. The fate of the city’s businesses without the tourism brought by a normal Packers season has been in debate for as long as the NFL had decided to play without fans, but we’re seeing COVID-19 give us the answer in real time.
A second, powerful wave of COVID-19 has sent school districts home, filled our hospitals, and now it’s causing business owners to shutter their doors for the safety of their employees. Among the first to shut their doors this week was the Redwood Inn, home of my favorite fish fry in the city. They announced their closure this morning, September 26th, on facebook. Aunt Ethel’s of De Pere has also announced a closure this weekend amidst the rising cases. The caution exhibited by these regional favorites during this trying time is good to see.
It does, however, remind us how fragile the ecosystem of our restaurants is right now. The lengthy forced closures at the beginning of the pandemic have shuttered some businesses permanently, and those weren’t struggling ones before the pandemic. Here is an incomplete list of businesses that have closed their doors for cautionary purposes during the strong resurgence of COVID-19 in Green Bay-- and how you can support them.
Redwood Inn - Temporarily Closed, No Take Out
Considered the best Friday Fish Fry location in town, Redwood Inn has completely closed for an indeterminate amount of time to protect their staff and patrons. They make these updates on their facebook page, which you can monitor here. When they reopen, consider their takeout options that have come about due to the pandemic. This place is an icon of the region, and as far as I’m concerned, we cannot let COVID-19 take it from us.
Aunt Ethel’s - Temporarily Closed, No Takeout
Aunt Ethel’s is primarily an arcade bar to which Eating Normal has never been. However, their concern for public safety by closing their doors until October 14th shows a thoughtful management, and given my constant travel through De Pere for my day job, has lifted this place high up on the list of where to go soon. Consider visiting during what would be considered non peak times for any bar.
Greenwich Bistro - Dine In Closed, Takeout Available
Greenwich Bistro is a small breakfast/lunch location in the Bellevue suburb that we have visited before and LOVED. Their offerings are delicious, cost friendly, and unique. Greenwich Bistro has closed their dining for the protection of their staff, but takeout is still available. You can visit their facebook page for details on how to order and pick up if you’re looking for a perfect breakfast sandwich built into waffles or a plate of biscuits and gravy that’ll knock your socks off. Plus, they’re a champion of local business in the area, always encouraging small first.
Al’s Hamburger Shop- Dine In Closed, Take Out Available
You know we love Al’s. It’s a historical burger joint. It’s a cheap burger joint. It’s a quality burger joint. They’ve closed their dining area effective October 4th with only takeout or delivery available through UberEats and Eatstreet. This closure is until further notice. As a patron both in person and through delivery, I can tell you the burgers and the fries hold up over the time it takes your UberEats driver to get it to you. Again, eat local.
I promise to highlight every business in the Green Bay area that makes this decision to protect their staff and patrons so that we as diners can support their choice. This is a horrible decision to make, I’m sure, but we cannot let these companies that are putting public health over profit go under during this difficult time. Hospitality is not dead, and it’s a two way street. Many of the places that have done this for our safety are local icons that we would be sad to lose. If I can’t take my family to Al’s Hamburger Shop when they can finally visit, I’ll cry. If I can’t show them a proper Wisconsin Fish Fry at Redwood, I’ll cry.
Our local restaurants and businesses are the backbone of our economy. These people need us now, more than ever. I am fortunate enough to have returned to work in a relatively secure field as a medical biller when our local hospitals are still unwilling to shut down nonessential visits and surgeries. I’m needed, and I have a paycheck. That paycheck can do a little work by giving the suffering businesses of our great town a little boost with a late night delivery.
I am sure that there are some businesses in town that have made this decision that I missed. If you’re a reader that knows who has done this for their employees and patrons, leave a comment. You will be acknowledged as we share this information on our facebook page.
COVID-19 has already taken so much from us-- lives, businesses, livelihoods, joy. We can protect those things as much as possible with information and empathy.
To our local restaurants making the difficult decision to close your dine in and ‘cripple’ your business, I say thank you. This is an unprecedented time, and this industry is one of those suffering the most. I want only the best for you and yours, and I will do my best to make sure you get it.
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An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird. Pledge monthly to our patreon!