By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Apr 10, 2023 at 7:04 PM

Things may look relatively normal out there in the world, but the challenges posed by COVID-19 are still impacting local restaurants. In fact, these days every day brings new decisions to the table, including whether to remain open or close their doors.

Just ask Alisha and Tydus Hayes, who recently made the decision to close the flagship Waukesha location of Pat’s Rib Place at 151 E. Sunset Dr. after 14 years in business.  Currently, the restaurant is closed for both dine-in and carry-out, but guests can continue to place orders for catering ($100 or more) until June.

The Hayes' had been open for over a decade before COVID-19 hit. They were a busy operation, with many crediting them for serving the best ribs in the state. 

But none of these things guarantee a restaurant’s ability to survive the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic, including the after-effects, which include escalated operating costs, unpredictable food costs, rising labor costs and an ongoing labor shortage.  

For any barbeque business, the cost of high quality meat (combined with the labor needed to smoke it) can be challenging enough; but for a business that values the elements of service and hospitality, staffing issues are like a shot to the very heart of the business.

For the Hayes’, who had invested in doubling the size of their popular restaurant in 2018, the added burden of those costs, combined with less business from Waukesha area customers, simply became untenable.

“That location was not very busy during the times we were open after the pandemic,” says Alisha Hayes. “Staffing problems, on top of not being very busy at that location, helped us come to the conclusion to not renew our lease.”

Tydus and Alisha Hayes standing in their newly remodeled restaurant in 2018
Tydus and Alisha Hayes standing in their newly remodeled restaurant in 2018

Hayes, who notes that the Pat’s Rib Place in the Milwaukee Public Market will remain open, says the decision to close was not an easy one. But she says it has always been community support which has driven the business forward.

“We had 14 years of many great memories at Pat’s Waukesha,” she says. “We will always love and appreciate our customers who we address as our ‘Pat’s Family,’ no matter where our other locations are. Pat’s Waukesha has been our flagship and we couldn’t have come this far without our community support.”

Guests can continue to show support for Pat’s Rib Place in Waukesha by calling in catering orders (orders must be $100 or more) until June, 2023.

Guests who wish to enjoy the restaurant’s menu of smoked meats and sides can visit the Milwaukee Public Market location, which is open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.