Milwaukee, Wisconsin — — For years, restaurants across the state have been scrambling to find new customers, and now that the opioid epidemic has forced many to close, some are turning to cheaper alternatives.
“It’s hard to find people that want to come out and eat there,” said Jason Daugherty, owner of the La Belle Mejia restaurant in Milwaukee.
“The prices are so high.
It’s not the same quality of food, it’s not what you’d find in other places.”
While many restaurants are struggling to stay afloat, others are thriving, with a few new entrants to the market opening late in the week.
The most recent restaurant to open late was the Italian restaurant Casa Santa Maria, which is offering a menu that includes meatballs and chicken parmigiana.
Another new restaurant is the newly opened Pescara in La Crosse, with an array of seasonal Italian and Spanish dishes.
The menu includes salads and entrees that include a pasta dish with marinated mushrooms and a fresh mozzarella.
Daugherty also recently opened his new restaurant, which serves a menu with dishes such as lobster bisque, beef tongue and a roasted duck with a tomato-based sauce.
He’s also working on expanding his own catering business, which includes a menu of homemade pizza and other dishes.
La Belle Meijia is the latest addition to the chain of restaurants that has closed or recently reopened in Milwaukee, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
At a time when the opioid addiction crisis has made it hard for businesses to fill the void left by the restaurant closures, some restaurants are hoping to capitalize on the new customers.
“The restaurant industry is a business,” said Michelle Gagnon, director of operations for the Downtown Milwaukee Association, a group of local businesses.
“They have to stay in business to make money, but now they’re seeing a lot more people come out of the woodwork.
They need to find ways to appeal to a new audience.”
The economic downturn has forced more businesses to shut down, with the majority of them in Milwaukee and the surrounding counties.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing for the restaurants that are still open.
Gagnon said many of the businesses are struggling with the added challenges of the opioid drug crisis, such as changing the menu, which means they’re adding more prices.
“If you’re a small business, you’re going to have to adjust your pricing, and that means that you need to add a lot of additional expenses,” she said.
“That means that there’s a lot going on, and there’s no question about that.”