Winter business story

Igloos outside of BBG’s restaurant in Stoughton.

As of March 2020, Chorus Public House had a scheduled event for nearly every weekend in 2020.

But as the state and county imposed COVID-19 restrictions to help keep virus transmission down starting this spring, however, each one of the events – except a surprise engagement party for two – had to be rescheduled.

Luckily, most events were just postponed until this upcoming year, owner Carol Vander Sluis, told the Hub.

The event venue at 154 W Main St. is looking forward to a busy year come 2021, as are other area businesses that have seen large reductions in revenue and customers because of the pandemic. Chorus Public House, Banushi’s Bar and Grill, and Kicks Unlimited Stoughton told the Hub they all hope to keep everyone safe while businesses get back to normal.

“People are keeping hope alive,” Vander Sluis said.

Business owners continue to adapt to customers and clients needs as they whether through outdoor eating igloos, virtual karate lessons or using downtime to upgrade indoor spaces. It’s apparent those business owners aren’t going down without a fight.

Wendy Brigham-Abrouq, owner of BBG’s at 800 Nygaard St., said the pandemic has given her the opportunity to closely scrutinize her business operations. Brigham-Abrouq explained that at any time, even without a pandemic, business owners have to adjust and pivot.

“We try to find the positive in every situation and we’ve had to make some really difficult decisions that I think will benefit us long term,” she told the Hub. “There are things that we talked about doing before but we didn’t have the time or motivation but of course the pandemic made it an immediate necessity. Those lessons will be taken into the future and hopefully come out on the other side better than before. Better service, better product.”

Although their business is only 30-40% of what it was in 2019, staff have implemented delivery and a drive-thru takeout.

Brigham-Abrouq also bought igloos to put on their patio, so patrons can have a secluded dining experience.

“Igloos have been a huge hit,” she said. “Each igloo has a heater and it is first come first serve with no minimum purchase. We just wanted to offer additional options for our customers.”

WIth the vaccine on the horizon, BBG’s won’t be changing any of their sanitization practices that have been implemented because of the pandemic, Brigham-Abrouq added.

“I don’t see us changing any of our precautions that we’ve put in place to at least late summer or early fall, until it is safer to socialize,” she said. “And It will have to be fact-based, science-backed decisions. Sanitations will continue, masks will continue until then.”

Kicks Unlimited owner Matt Griffey said at first while his martial arts businesses tried to find a plan in March, it was shocking but now that the team has implemented virtual karate lessons, the members are able to get the physical activity and feedback they are craving.

Kicks Unlimited, at 1740 East Main St., has combination virtual and in person classes. Griffey said all members wear masks without complaints — even the younger participants.

He saw a decline in participation towards the beginning of 2020 as the pandemic took hold in Dane County, but since he has had virtual classes participation has been steady.

He said in martial arts, it is critical for students to attend classes regularly to improve their skills.

Chorus Public House is typically a busy venue during the winter with holiday parties, reunions, shop small markets and the Victorian Holiday.

During downtown this winter, as the business is only able to accommodate small groups, Vander Sluis took the opportunity to do some upgrades.

She transformed the upper level of the building to accommodate small events, adding new wall finishes, painting, lighting upgrade and formalized a catering area. She also redecorated using pictures and furniture.

“That was the whole purpose of our space as to bring people together and celebrate togetherness,” she said. “We are ready and happy to put all our efforts into getting people’s celebration scheduled again.”

Griffey said everyone at Kicks Unlimited has maintained a “black belt attitude – he’s hoping it’s a mindset hopefully people can take with them into the coming months.

“The black belt attitude is that if we get beaten up we find a way to re-coach ourselves to improve,” he said. “There is a lot of perseverance with everyone — to find ways to keep that determination going.”

Contact Mackenzie Krumme at