Following in the footsteps of other cities across the country, today Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced that all restaurants and bars will close for in-person dining for eight weeks starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
In an effort to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus, all dine-in service in Denver will halt through May 11, or until further notice, Hancock said. But delivery, drive-thru and carryout will still be permitted.
“None of these decisions have been easy ones to make, I can promise you that,” Hancock said. “We are very concerned, obviously, about our workers in this city.”
He said that more information about economic relief for affected businesses would be available in the coming days.
“We’re doing everything within our means to help businesses as much as possible,” he said, adding, “(businesses) are going to do what they can to keep their employees working as best they can.”
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But Beth Gruitch, co-owner of Crafted Concepts, says the closure for eight weeks came as a shock this morning.
Gruitch and business partner Jennifer Jasinski employ more than 250 workers across five restaurants. Once the shutdown starts, they will pare down to a four or five-person staff until further government notice.
“I’m anxious to hear what this relief package is,” Gruitch said, regarding Hancock’s comments. “I’m super concerned for our staff, of course, and the community, and everyone in general. This is affecting everybody.”
Colorado Restaurant Association CEO Sonia Riggs echoed Gruitch’s concern that more emergency assistance from the city will be needed to help closed businesses and their employees, though she said the mayor’s decision to continue to allow takeout and delivery is helpful.
“This provides an essential option for Denverites practicing social distancing, will help relieve strain on grocery stores and will allow the businesses to generate some revenue and retain some staff to soften the blow,” Riggs said. “We anticipate Denver’s restaurant and bar closures will have a devastating economic impact on the industry and the people it employs, but the industry is ready to do its part to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Following the announcement, restaurateur Dave Query of Big Red F concepts said that Jax Fish House, Lola Coastal Mexican and four other restaurants would switch to takeout and delivery as of Tuesday.
“We realize that to get this situation under control and to eventually find ourselves once again tracking some degree of normalcy in our lives, closing our dining rooms is the responsible and right thing to do for everyone,” Query said.
Some Denver restaurants proactively closed down their dining rooms ahead of Monday’s announcement. Many of them switched to takeout, curbside pickup and delivery options in order to help promote social distancing. Crafted Concepts had started that effort while also announcing the permanent closure on Tuesday of one of their long-running businesses, Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen.
“Our hearts are saddened for everybody,” Gruitch said. “We’re part of the community and we want to be able to (serve food). That’s what we do best is to feed people, take care of people. We’re here for them.”
While restaurant groups and small cafes alike could contemplate the switch to takeout and delivery, bars will have a more difficult time continuing any service during the two-month closure.
One of Denver’s oldest watering holes, My Brother’s Bar, announced its temporary closure on Sunday, while one of the city’s newer establishments paused to consider options Monday morning. Run for the Roses owner Steven Waters said he’s most concerned about his employees during the shutdown.
“I want to make sure that they are safe and taken care of during this time, including not having to stress about paying their bills,” he said. “We are working on potential scenarios to generate income … but will continue to pay our staff their normal wages and tips as long as possible.”
Other types of alcohol purveyors, such as the new Denver winery, Attimo, and The Proper Pour wine shop, started delivering over the weekend. And many business owners are asking customers to buy gift cards now for when they potentially reopen.