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Downtown Madison businesses move forward amid violence

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Downtown businesses in Madison have been right in the middle of the violence ever since 75 shops on State Street had to be boarded up in May with damage from looters.

As business owners deal with new threats now, some in the Capitol Square area are working to keep people safe while extending reopening plans.

Earlier this week, before the violence of Tuesday night at the state Capitol, a group of State Street business owners sent a letter to city officials, demanding a plan for security. They called for more neighborhood officers and cameras down the entire corridor.

You can read their entire letter of requests to improve the business district below or HERE.

One business owner on State Street who wanted to remain anonymous for their safety tells 27 News they've had to deal with at least a dozen incidents where they feel they've been harassed or threatened.

Cooper's Tavern was still closed Wednesday, after an aggressive arrest that led to protests and then violence Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the city's Streatery program launched Wednesday on Pinkney Street. Lucille is the first restaurant to expand patio seating into the road, which is closed to traffic through October.

Co-owner Patrick Sweeney says Lucille has been a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement from the start.

"We hope we're a safe place for all people," he said. "Our doors are open, our windows are not boarded. We are here for you. Our messaging outward is that we're listening. We need to listen more; all of us. But we hope we can provide a respite to gather and talk about these important issues."

Lucille has donated to the cause and urged inclusivity among staff.

They've had conversations about what staff should do if something were to happen at their restaurant. Sweeney says safety is the number one priority.

"Despite everything that's going on, we would welcome everyone to come downtown, especially to the King Street neighborhood, " he told 27 News. "We have many, many protocols in place within our establishment to deal with anything that may arise. But we've always had that and that's kind of what differentiates these businesses up here."

Four other businesses also plan to join the street cafe zone this week, but several are still waiting on outdoor furniture. Settle Down Tavern owner Sam Parker says he's also having conversations with his staff about how to protect themselves and customers if violence continues nearby.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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