Art lot on Milwaukee's east side to offer additional outdoor seating for dining
The East Side Business Improvement District in the city of Milwaukee is taking over a parking lot to provide restaurants additional outdoor seating while highlighting the work of local artists.
The BID is creating what it calls an art lot, which will be in the city-owned parking lot at 1915 E. North Ave. Situated between Von Trier and Beans & Barley, the lot will be filled with picnic tables painted by local artists. Customers of local dining establishments can bring their to-go orders to the lot.
Liz Brodek, executive director of the BID, said the idea for the art lot runs parallel with the city of Milwaukee’s Active Streets for Business program. Under the program, restaurants can take over parts of city sidewalks and streets for outdoor seating. City officials created the program to help restaurants serve additional customers while their indoor capacity is restricted to curb the spread of Covid-19.
As of Wednesday afternoon, restaurants and bars in the city remain limited to 50% capacity while the city is in Phase 4 of its Moving Milwaukee Forward reopening plan.
Brodek said the art lot is not part of the Active Streets program and has no licensing attached to it for serving food or alcohol. Instead, she said, customers can bring their to-go orders from local restaurants to consume outdoors.
Physical distancing and masks will be required, she said.
The BID intends to offer light programming while “making sure it’s not too big a congregating area,” she said.
In a press release announcing the project, Brodek stated the concept had support from nearby business owner and that the art lot will bring together the community, artists, restaurants and shops.
The project is funded in part by a "Small Dollar, Big Impact" grant from AARP worth $1,000. The BID is looking for additional financial support through a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe to pay for the project.
The organization aims to raise $6,500. From that total, $5,000 will pay local artists, and $700 will pay for extra garbage collection and sanitization. The BID will put $650 toward locally purchased art supplies and $150 toward signage for the lot, the release states.
Any additional funding will be used for other beautification projects at the art lot, such as plants or more art.
A call for artists is open through Aug. 6.
Brodek said the BID will take over the parking lot Aug. 17, and the lot should be ready to open by Aug. 21. Weather-dependent, the lot will remain open until Nov. 15, when the Active Streets program ends.