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Dane County bars reopening after long pandemic closure

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Arcade bar

DANE COUNTY (WKOW) -- As Dane county is getting ready to end its emergency pandemic orders, several bars and restaurants that have been closed for more than a year are starting to welcome people back.

Just this week, both I/O Arcade Bar on Willy Street in Madison and Octopi Brewing in Waunakee started allowing people back to enjoy a taste of life before the pandemic.

I/O owner Mitchell Turino said they spent the majority of the past 14 months entirely closed.

"It was really easy to get pessimistic but it was always something where we just always had to find a way to get through one more month and one more month," he said.

They spent part of that time moving into a bigger space, which also delayed their reopening.

Turino said they just needed more time to make sure the new space was as safe as they could make it.

Now he's more optimistic about the future.

"I think that this is going to be a really fun summer here in Madison, I'm super excited to be able to go out and see friends again and hopefully bring them in here," Turino said.

At Octopi, they didn't have to fully shut down like I/O, but they're also not a hundred percent reopened, with only patio space available.

For the staff at Octopi, it was still an emotional day to be able to see people enjoying their beers again in person.

"The last year was really hard in a lot of ways and finally being able to do what I wanted to do, I'm just really happy to finally be able to do this again," taproom manager Jeremy Moen said.

He says much of the past year was spent figuring out how to make their brewery experience work in a to-go format.

He says it was the rising vaccination numbers that led to their owner deciding to reopen.

Now, it's all about planning for the final steps towards returning to normalcy.

"We're excited to eventually welcome people back inside and have something a little bit more normal for capacity, but we're just going to take it day by day week by week and just as things start to feel a little more safe," Moen said.

Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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