Two days after gunfire erupted in Milwaukee’s downtown entertainment district, injuring 21 people and prompting a curfew order, bars and restaurants saw markedly smaller crowds Sunday afternoon to watch the NBA playoffs.
The Milwaukee Bucks canceled their watch party on the Deer District plaza outside Fiserv Forum, and it appeared business was slow at several downtown hotspots that were bustling during previous games.
Those who ventured out said they weren’t worried for their safety but expected the weekend’s violence to affect turnout in the short-term.
Matt Painter lives near the Deer District and said he usually goes out to watch Bucks games. He was one of about three dozen people in The Beer Garden Sunday at tip-off. The area is usually packed during playoff games.
“I don’t think one bad incident is going to ruin the Deer District. I think it’s still a good family environment,” he said. “Still feels safe out here.”
He said the shootings will likely affect business in the area in the immediate future, as he thinks people will be hesitant to go downtown.
Max Bradshaw, assistant general manager at Oak Barrel Public House, a block from Fiserv Forum on North King Drive, said he thought fewer families would bring their children to the area.
But he believed Milwaukee would bounce back.
“People like to have a short memory like that,” he said.
On Sunday, some bars appeared to have steady traffic, but most were sparsely populated. Streets were quiet and the outdoor tables at most of the bars were empty.
The quiet tone on Sunday stood in contrast to the chaotic scene Friday after the Bucks lost Game 6. Large crowds had swelled into the streets in what was almost a festival-like atmosphere at first that spilled out of control — complete with music blasting, clouds of smoke and people stopping traffic for impromptu dance parties.
Demetre Davis, who works at McGillicuddy’s — located at the intersection where 17 people were shot — criticized police for not doing enough to control the crowds Friday.
“You’ve got crowds of 50 standing on the corner in front of businesses,” he said.
He suggested making the entertainment district a pedestrian zone with more security.
Asked whether the security situation will improve in the area, Davis said, “it depends on how they (police) start enforcing things.”
“People are still going to carry around weapons,” Davis said. “(If) the police is just sitting back, letting it happen, then it’s not going to do nothing.”
Milwaukee police said the downtown area Saturday night was “peaceful and uneventful,’ and that no citations for violating curfew were issued.
There was no indication Sunday that criminal charges had been filed yet against any of the 11 people Milwaukee police said they arrested Friday night.
Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson imposed a curfew for Saturday and Sunday nights, beginning at 11 p.m., for people under 21 in parts of downtown bordered by Knapp and State streets, Vel Phillips Avenue and Broadway.
In issuing the curfew, Johnson urged people who wanted to cause trouble to stay away from downtown.
“To put it simply, if you intend to loiter, if you intend to act out, cut up, if you intend to do anything that is unlawful, then my message is simple: Don’t come here,” Johnson said.
Violence was reported elsewhere in the city overnight, however.
Two people, a 28-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy, were killed in separate shootings early Sunday morning.
Nine juveniles have been victims of homicide this year in Milwaukee, according to police. Four were killed in the last week.
Saturday night, police officers walked the area around North Water Street in small groups.
Still, some people made the decision to go out for the night.
One woman, Shannon King, said it was still important to have a social life.
She also said more could be done to engage youth in the city, and that elected officials should hold community meetings to listen to residents’ ideas about improving the city.
“There’s a lot of different people in Milwaukee with good ideas,” King said. “We just need to come together and pull together as a community.”
About an hour after the Bucks’ postseason-ending loss to the Celtics, the only people left in The Beer Garden were a couple of staffers.
A steady amount of patrons remained at some area bars, like Harp Irish Pub, which appeared to be one of the busier establishments Sunday.
The streets were still crowd free.
Drake Bentley of the Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Business slow at downtown bars during Milwaukee Bucks playoff game