Joe Taschler, Jordyn Noennig and Curt Hogg, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Scott and Melissa Dooley and their team at Knucklehead Pub & Grub had already begun preparing their signature "lug nuts" — a tater tot and jalapeno pepper on a stick, wrapped in bacon and deep fried — which they sell by the thousands each year at the Wisconsin State Fair.
This year, though, the "lug nuts," along with the live music and the tens of thousands of beers they typically serve during the fair's 11-day run won't happen.
The Wisconsin State Fair was canceled Thursday, the latest cruel blow dealt by COVID-19 to hospitality businesses in the state.
"It’s a huge financial loss," said Scott Dooley."It’s a big blow to us."
|The Knucklehead at the Wisconsin State Fair. (Photo: Scott Stokhaug)|
The "lug nuts" have to be made in advance because the rate at which they sell during the fair "is just ridiculous," Scott Dooley said.
So are the beer sales.
"If I remember correctly, we sold 15,000 cans of beer" last year at the fair. That doesn't include the beer that is sold on tap.
He and his wife, Melissa, (whom he refers to as "the brains of the operation") bought the building at Central Avenue and Center Street on the fairgrounds several years ago and this would have been the bar's fifth year at the fair.
He described the relationship with the fair as "kind of like a trailer park. We own the bricks and mortar but we don’t own the land. It’s a partnership with the state," Scott Dooley said.
"They take care of all the marketing and advertising and we run a fun, clean place. It’s a good partnership," he said.
"We have two payments left on the building," he added.
But COVID-19 has proven to be wildly contagious among folks who come in close contact with each other. On a warm weekend day and/or evening, crowds at the fair can sometimes be shoulder to shoulder.
The fair routinely draws 1 million visitors.
"You don't want people to get sick," Scott Dooley said. "I trust their decision" to cancel the fair.