By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer Published Nov 04, 2020 at 1:01 PM

The Milwaukee Active Streets for Business program, which allowed restaurants to make use of sidewalks, parking lanes and travel lanes for expanded patio seating, has been extended to accommodate winter dining out-of-doors.

The program, launched by the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works in June, was originally slated to end Nov. 15. However, the program will now be extended through March 15, 2021, with revised guidelines that include allowances for both temporary tents and heating. 

To participate, all new and current participants in the program will need to apply for a winter extension and adhere to updated guidelines related to structures, outdoor heaters and snow and ice removal.

“Since the beginning of this program, we have been working with businesses throughout the City of Milwaukee to ensure they can serve their customers in a manner that is both safe and enjoyable for patrons,” noted Mayor Tom Barrett in a release about the extension. “And we heard overwhelmingly from the business community the desire to continue expanded outdoor seating even through the winter months.”

The city-wide program, which requires City approval, but no fee from participating businesses, saw participation from 42 bars and restaurants over the summer, including a significant number of restaurants on Milwaukee’s East Side.

In fact, when the East Side BID requested feedback from area businesses to inform the potential program extension, director Elizabeth Brodek says that many venues noted that they couldn’t have made it through the summer without the Active Streets program.

“Given consumer preferences, I don't think the need will change much in winter,” says Brodek. “We're so grateful that the City and DPW are open-minded and forward-thinking to make this happen for our local  businesses.”

The program extension and its new guidelines aims to support local businesses while adhering  to Milwaukee Health Department guidelines and protecting the needs of the public at large.

Revised guidelines

Revised guidelines for the program allow for both temporary outdoor structures (such as tents) as well as outdoor heaters. Examples of requirements include:

  • Tents must be fire resistant and have 50% total wall space open to allow air flow
  • Tents be weighted, anchored or secured without damaging the public way
  • Electrical heating devices must be installed/approved by a licensed electrical contractor
  • Heating devices (gas or electric) must be placed away from combustible materials
  • Cords or materials should not create tripping hazards or violate ADA guidelines

Businesses participating in the program must submit inclement weather plans for snow and ice removal, which they will be responsible for clearing from their designated outdoor spaces. In the case of businesses located on closed streets, they are also responsible for clearing snow and ice from behind barricades. 

The application for the winter extension, plus a full list of guidelines is available at

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer

Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.

Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon. 

Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.