Oshkosh businesses work toward reopening, Evers announces best practices, safety tips


Advance-Titan — The Oshkosh Public Library now offers curbside pickup by appointment.

Andrew Haese, Reporter

Oshkosh business owners and service employees say they are working toward reopening local businesses after Gov. Tony Evers extended the Safer at Home order into late May.

“I want to be able to look back on this situation and be able to think, I did what I could,” Oshkosh resident Janice Maahs said.

Evers announced on April 16 his plan to have Department of Health Secretary Andrea Palm extend the Safer at Home order past Memorial Day through May 26.

The plan, named “Safer at Home,” was set to originally expire on April 24 where the governor hoped to start reopening the state economy in a gradual manner.

Businesses such as golf courses, craft stores, landscapers and libraries were allowed to reopen after Evers updated his order, with many nonessential-deemed businesses still unable to fully reopen.

Evers announced Friday that businesses looking to keep workers, customers and families safe while reopening can now draw on a series of publications to keep them informed of best practices and safety tips.

Copies of the guide are available here on the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation website.

The brochures include general guidelines for all businesses to follow as well as industry-specific advice, such as for restaurants, retailers, manufacturers, professional offices, farmers, manufacturers, builders, hotel and motel operators, barbers, personal care services and other fields.

However, many services in the city of Oshkosh, such as the Oshkosh Public Library, will remain limited until the pandemic begins to fully die down, according to Michael McArthur, a historian at the Oshkosh Public Library.

The library launched contactless curbside pickup on April 24, but it still cannot allow customers to come inside.

“There is definitely going to be a need for the library with unemployment and job searching, but we can’t have people crammed in shoulder to shoulder once we open the doors,” McArthur said.

According to the American Library Association, local libraries see a surge in patronage following large economic downturns as they are a draw for free resources by the community.

“Having gone through the recession in 2009, there is definitely a draw for free services,” McArthur said. “However, with the whole nature of a pandemic, it’s not something we’ve seen in a century.”

McArthur said with strict social distancing practices that will likely last for the foreseeable future, the public library will not allow an influx of people in the doors.

The Oshkosh Public Library is continuing to offer online services, like e-books and virtual book clubs to its members with library cards.

While the library does the best it can to offer services, the Westhaven Golf Club is doing the same. It reopened after state restrictions were updated on April 24.

A co-owner of the club, who asked that her name not be used, said the restricted opening is helping to offset some bills.

Evers’ order included restrictions prohibiting the use of golf carts, requiring the observation of social distancing and requiring all tee times and payments to be made in advance, among many other changes.

Westhaven Golf Club said they are utilizing rubberized pieces at the base of each hole, preventing their guests from touching the flag poles. The club will also refrain from putting rakes, ball washers and club washers out.

Maahs said she is excited for some of the businesses to reopen but knows other local business owners that will continue to struggle with the extension.

“My neighbor across the street runs Satori Imports,” Maahs said. “She can’t go in there and run her business. I feel bad because I would like to go there and support her.”

Todd Hutchinson, a realtor for Keller Williams Fox Cities, expects to see a ripple effect for businesses like Satori Imports and the local economy in the coming months.

“It’s possible that 35% of just restaurants in the state of Wisconsin will be unable to open, leaving lower tax income for local cities and communities,” Hutchinson said.

He said that due to the order, real estate agencies cannot serve five-day notices to businesses that  do not pay their rent, until the emergency is over.

“We can explain to tenants that even though we can’t force an eviction, it doesn’t mean you’re still not obligated to pay per the contract,” Hutchinson said.

He said that nonessential businesses will suffer the worst, and many are not focused on the outcomes in the coming months.

“There will not only be an effect on the people those businesses employ, but also on the taxes those businesses pay to the local government,” Hutchinson said.

Maahs said she plans to shop locally where she can to provide business to the shops in Oshkosh, and hopes others do the same to keep the economy thriving.

“I think by doing this, it makes me feel not so isolated,” Maahs said. “I want to say that I helped people and saved some of my favorite places.”