Milwaukee chef, restaurant owner not seeing expected RNC boost

The head chef and owner of Milwaukee restaurant Amilinda says the expected boost from the upcoming Republican National Convention isn’t materializing, and even regulars won’t be showing up during convention week. 

Gregory Leon has been running the Spanish-Portuguese restaurant for close to nine years in downtown Milwaukee, about two blocks away from the edge of the security zone for the RNC. In an interview Friday, he said the close proximity to the political event will put a damper on his business. 

“It’s not just me,” he told “It’s a lot of restaurants in the city that have not seen that boost that we were told would happen.” 

Despite expectations, Amilinda hasn’t landed any RNC-related bookings, and Leon says he’s been hearing from regular customers that they’ll be staying away while the convention is underway July 15-18. 

“It’s also just keeping our regulars away,” he said. “A lot of our regulars have told us that they’re not going to be coming downtown that week, which I completely understand. So not only are we not getting a boost, it’s also hindering our normal, you know, traffic.” 

Leon also said “who I am and what I stand for” may not align fully with conservative convention-goers. 

“I’m gay, I’m half-Jewish, I’m half-Latino … we do a lot of work with refugees, and raise money for lots of other causes,” he said, noting a quick Google search of the restaurant would reveal his own progressive viewpoint. “And I’m speculating. I’m not saying everybody who’s coming to the convention would feel that way, but, you know.” 

The restaurant is typically only open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, but will be adding hours on the Monday and Tuesday of the convention week as well. Leon says he’s requested permits to be open until at least 2 a.m. on the days the convention takes place. 

“We’re right next to one of the hotels where the press will be staying,” he said, referring to the nearby Marriott. “So we’re hoping, you know, we get some of that business.” 

He argued organizers and tourism officials should be “a little more cautious” in their predictions about the convention’s immediate impact on local businesses, though he added he expects it will benefit the city overall. 

“It’s a good, safe place with great things to do and great cuisine … I’m hoping that this translates to people coming next year for their vacation, or the following year,” he said. “I’m sure the people who are in the red zone, the security zone, are going to do great. I’m sure the businesses in the Pfizer Forum are going to do great. That’s awesome, good for them.” 

But he added “maybe don’t paint it as” something that’s going to be great for everyone involved. 

See more about the restaurant and find more convention coverage at WisPolitics

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