After 15 years, Fresco announces its last summer in business

Instead of renewing its lease at MMoCA, the restaurant plans to close in October due to financial uncertainty.
Patio chairs on top of Fresco with views of The Orpheum and the Capitol
Courtesy of Fresco

Rooftop restaurant Fresco Madison announced Wednesday that while it is now open for the summer after a temporary closure, it plans to permanently shutter its doors in October due to financial uncertainty. 

After a 15-year-long partnership with the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, officials said it was hit with serious economic hardship over the last year. 

“As thrilled as we are to reopen, it is with a heavy heart that we also announce that this will be our last summer atop the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art,” officials wrote in an Instagram post

Food Fight Restaurant Group Chief Executive Officer Caitlin Suemnicht says she is proud of the success Fresco has seen over the years.  

“I think that to have a restaurant in an art facility has been important. It’s been really wonderful for us to serve museum patrons and Overture guests alike,” Suemnicht says. “We saw a really amazing mix of clientele from people in shorts and flip-flops that were just walking State Street and doing a little shopping to people that celebrated weddings and anniversaries.”

Suemnicht, who previously worked at Fresco, is also hopeful for this upcoming summer. 

“It’s sad and disappointing but we really are thankful that we have 2021 to go — we have the rest of the summer,” she says.  


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Fresco Madison explained in its social media post that construction and renovation plans were likely too risky to undertake. The post said the cost of the build-out, furniture replacement, and increased rent and occupancy costs were part of the reasons management decided not to sign a new lease for the location.

With COVID-19 restrictions, Suemnicht says Fresco would have had a limited capacity of 17 restaurant-goers inside the restaurant. They offered summer patio seating in 2020, but closed the restaurant in October when the temperatures dropped.

“We decided it made more sense to close than open, but we still had to continue paying rent because the museum was charging us,” she says, given that MMoCA was also in a tough spot as a nonprofit. “PPP loans would cover a portion of rent if you had payroll, but we didn’t have payroll because we had closed the dining room.”

“Our bank account dwindled, we didn’t have a ton of money to put into the space, and Fresco was showing its age,” she says. 

While Suemnicht says she does not yet know how the museum will fill its space, she is optimistic about the restaurant’s summer plans to reopen. 

“I think it would have been really, really sad if we closed during 2020 last summer, and we weren’t able to operate in a semi-normal capacity, so it’s bittersweet that we have this summer to look forward to,” she says. “We hope people are able to celebrate and visit us over the next few months. I know our chef, management team and employees have really worked hard to put together a new menu that we’re excited about.”

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