UPDATE: The Watertown Sprecher's Restaurant and Pub is now officially closed. The location, which was supposed to be open until Friday, had to close Wednesday due to staffing complications.
"We are appreciative to the Watertown community for their support over the last two years," Sprecher's operations director Susan Getgen said. "We are very sad to have to make the decision to close."
If customers have a valid coupon or paper certificate or gift cards they can be used at Fast Lanes in Columbus or Sprecher’s other locations in the Wisconsin Dells and Lake Geneva, according to Getgen. Pub club members do not have rewards points and instead receive discounts on purchases with every visit which they do not have to build up so they will not be affected.
The Watertown Sprecher's Facebook post announcing the closure had 29 reactions including 19 sad reactions as well as 12 comments and 36 shares.
Comments ranged from thank yous to staff and management to sadness at the property leaving.
When Eileen and Bill Rex come to Sprecher’s Restaurant and Pub, 1512 S. Church St., for their weekly Friday Fish Fry special, the elderly Watertown couple are usually in for a treat of tasty beer-battered cod and greeted by the smiling faces of Sprecher’s friendly staff.
But on Friday, they were greeted by a white paper taped to one of the interior doors of the restaurant. In solid black letters it read:
“We are sorry to announce we will be closing permanently on Friday, November 15th at the end of the business day. Thank you for your support and business over the last two years.”
“We were shocked to see it will close,” Eileen said.
It would be the fourth Sprecher’s resturant in Wisconsin to close in the past few years.
Inside the Watertown restaurant the mood was somber as some customers talked to their hosts about the future of the restaurant and others enjoyed their food and drink quietly.
For Susan Getgen, Sprecher’s operations director for four of the restaurants locations, it was a particularly difficult day.
“It’s a heart-breaker. It really is,” Getgen said. “The community has been great. The chamber’s been great. We’re grateful to everyone in the community. It’s tough.”
The restaurant, which was built as a test location to experiment as a small footprint operation according to Getgen, struggled due to a variety of factors, including tough economic times, difficulty finding workers and location, though Getgen wouldn’t say one was more significant than the other.
“It’s a combination of everything. I’m not going to pinpoint it on anything,” Getgen said.
For the 30 employees who worked at the location, it was a difficult goodbye as well. During an all staff meeting, management announced the decision.
“It was really unexpected,” said server Alexis Maas, who has worked at the restaurant since it opened in 2017. “(The staff) is all really close and we we’re all really sad. Half of us were crying. Nobody’s happy about it”
“It’s never easy,” Getgen said. “We told them what’s going on and if they want interviews to other locations to let us know....We’re trying to do whatever we can to help them find other jobs locally.”
Getgen said employees were given options to apply for jobs at the two other Sprecher’s locations in Wisconsin Dells and Lake Geneva as well as at Fast Lanes Pub, a bowling alley-pub hybrid in Columbus. Maas said her plan was to go to Columbus because she likes working with the company, but it likely won’t be the same.
“The hardest part is I won’t be working with all the employees. We worked together a long time. We will miss being with each other every day and working with each other every day,” Maas said.
Customers will miss it, too.
“It’s too bad it’s closing,” Oconomowoc resident Ginny Lord said.
Ginny and her husband Don frequently stopped in during trips through the area. On Friday, the couple stopped in after a trip to Madison to find the place would be closing soon.
“We like Sprecher’s beer and it was something in town that’s not a chain. It was a level up (from that),” Don said. “There was a comfort here.”
For Sprecher’s, the company will review its concept and see if it might have to change operations, according to Getgen. Watertown is not the first location to close, with the company’s Madison location closing in 2018 after eight years of operations, its location in the Bayshore Town Center closing in January of this year and its Sheboygan resturant closing in April 2019.
The two locations in Lake Geneva and Wisconsin Wells are going strong and the Fast Lanes is doing fine as well, according to Getgen. For now, there are no intentions to open more restaurants in the near future as the company will focus on the ones it currently operates.
“We have to look at what the concept is and if it’s successful,” Getgen said. “We’re going to focus on the ones we have and we won’t be discussing new opportunities until the new year and we see what opportunities arise for us.”
Leaving Watertown is not an easy move for the company, which celebrated its two year anniversary at the location just last week.
“I’m going to miss the guests the most,” Getgen said. “We’ve had great reactions from the Watertown community. We love the Watertown community.”
Sprecher’s will be missed by the community as well. The Watertown Sprecher’s Facebook post announcing the closure had 75 reactions, 50 being sad reactions, 92 comments and 234 shares as of publication.