Part of Madison’s character halted by COVID-19 pandemic
Every week from Tuesday-Sunday, the Kollege Klub is packed with students looking to have a good time with their friends. Unfortunately, the bar is now empty for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As COVID-19, a strain of the Coronavirus, continues to spread around the world, many people whose jobs are considered “nonessential” are left out of work. Bars fall under the category of nonessential, forcing their employees to close shop until the government deems it safe for them to reopen.
Bars are not only a major part of the culture of Wisconsin, but they are also essential to Madison’s character. People in Madison love the bar culture. Whether it be to watch the Badgers, Packers or just a night out for a good time with friends, Madison’s bars are always packed, especially the Kollege Klub.
‘The KK’ is considered by many to be one of the best bars in Madison, especially for events like Friday After Class, parents weekend and of course, game days in the fall.
Because of what seem like endless crowds that come into the KK, it is also one of the most popular bars in Madison to work at.
I spoke with Jordan Meier, owner of the KK, about the closure of his bar. Meier has been working full time at the KK since 2006. This is the first time the KK has been forced to close since he has been there.
Meier said, “The KK was last forced closed when the city suspended our liquor license for 30 days back in the early 2000s. That was before my time but from what I can remember the managers weren’t doing a very good job of enforcing the rules. A lot has changed since back then.”
This closure has left all employees of the bar out of work, from bartenders, to bouncers, even the D.J.’s at the bar.
I, along with Mike Reuhl, work as a D.J. at the KK multiple nights throughout the week playing music for customers. While I have only had the position for a little over a year, Mike has been working at the KK off and on since 2008. I talked to Mike about his time at the KK and about the recent closure.
“I knew back in January that it was going to probably affect us because we weren’t really doing anything about it at that point. It was happening in China at that time and you could see that the spread was massive. Then the CDC came out towards the end of February and said people should buy two weeks of food and supplies and that’s when I knew it was happening,” Reuhl said.
Mike knew that his time as a D.J. was going to be cut short for the school year, but he did not know when.
“The week before spring break I said to myself that this is probably the last time I’m going to be seeing a lot of the seniors. Even if people are staying in Madison, we are going to be closed,” Reuhl said.
While Reuhl is upset about the closure, there are many memories that he can look back on at the KK, like their recent event hosted by Friday Beers where the entire bar got free beer all afternoon. He said he had never seen the KK like that before.
While it can be fun to look back on the good times, not knowing when businesses will be able to open again and employees will be able to return to work is something that Reuhl is skeptical about.
“I think that bars and restaurants will be closed for a while. I think it will last way through summer and even into next year. I’m surprised that the government didn’t make even more restrictions. I thought there were going to be restrictions about going in and out of cities, all the way to martial law,” Reuhl said.
Like many people, Reuhl has found other activities to stay busy during this time at home, like shooting rifles for sport and walking to stay active. He also has been cooking a lot with his girlfriend.
While these are all fun things to do, Reuhl, along with many others across the country, still worry about not having a job and not having a source of income.
“I applied for the CARES Act because I was a full time D.J. so I qualified for support and got a decent chunk of change from that.”
The CARES Act is a Federal Stimulus Bill that was passed by Congress on March 27, 2020. The Department of Workforce Development website says that “within the CARES Act are three benefits, like $600 a week in unemployment benefits, that unemployed individuals may be eligible to receive if they are not eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.”
For now, those that are unemployed can benefit from this stimulus bill, but everyone hopes to get back to normal sooner than later.