How Decking Out This Parking Lot Will Help Local Restaurants and Artists

An East Side parking lot is set to get a makeover.

Outdoor seating has become the saving grace for restaurants who want to serve customers during the pandemic while also ensuring their customers’ safety. However, the rush back to eating out and the limited seating has created longer waiting times and difficulty for customers to find somewhere to eat. 

The East Side Business Improvement District (BID) is tackling this issue with its new initiative to create a space for restaurant patrons to go if outdoor seating is at capacity or simply if someone wants a quiet, outdoor space to relax. BID wrote a grant to AARP’s Small Dollar Big Impact fund and recently received $1,000 to purchase picnic tables. 

This space is called the East Side Art Lot and will be located at 1915 E. North Ave., which has been an unused city-owned parking lot until now. The location is between two popular restaurants, Von Trier and Beans and Barley, and is also near over a dozen other restaurants. 



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Liz Brodek, executive director of BID, explained that this space is also a great opportunity to pay local artists to design and paint the tables located in the Art Lot. BID has put together a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe to raise money to pay these artists. The campaign is asking for $6,000, $5,000 of which will pay local artists, $700 for garbage collection and sanitization, $650 for locally-bought art supplies and $150 to produce signage for the lot, according to a statement from BID. BID has also opened a call for artists that will remain open through August 6. 

One local business owner, Steph Davies of The Waxwing, has been supporting the idea from the start. In a statement, Davies said, “It has been inspiring to see The East Side BID come up with innovative ways to drive traffic, support our customers and remind people that even though our business models are changing practically daily, we’re still here!”

Brodek wants this space to help restaurants, “an already low-margin business, get through the pandemic,” and ensure that customers feel safe. Additionally, she views the Art Lot as a space that will highlight the local artists, restaurants and shops and community “that makes the East Side so special.” 



Marla Hiller is an editorial intern at Milwaukee Magazine. She is a junior at Boston University majoring in international relations and minoring in journalism