Some Denver eating places are cautious about reopening regardless of Governor Jared Polis’ inexperienced mild

For so many restaurants across Colorado racing to reopen their indoor dining rooms this week, many others reluctantly chose to do so – or not at all.

Even in a good year, the worst part of restaurant sales starts in January just after the holiday season. But during that first full pandemic winter, and after a sluggish second stimulus package, January promises to be especially hopeless for those struggling to stay in the services industry in 2021.

“In France, restaurants close for the entire month of August,” said Hamidou Dia, co-owner of Le French at the Denver Tech Center. “Maybe we should learn from our French background and close here for the month of January.”

Hamidou and his wife, Aminata Dia, are just two independent restaurant owners who reluctantly decided to risk a 25% reopening in early January in light of the announcement made by Colorado governor Jared Polis last week.

Late in the evening of December 30, Polis announced that as of Monday, all 33 Colorado counties would be moved to orange level on the state’s COVID-19 dial. This profound shift mainly affected indoor business operations, allowing restaurants, gyms and cultural institutions to reopen with 25% indoor capacity.

But restaurateurs like Die Dias and others felt torn. An increase in restaurant capacity in Colorado will come immediately after a new and 50% more infectious strain of COVID-19 arrives in the state, and health officials will not know for at least another week if the holidays resulted in a virus surge.

Then there’s the issue of the latest round of funding from the paycheck protection program, which could take weeks to become available to businesses, and in the meantime, restaurants could face another round of tightened restrictions. For public health, financial, and personal reasons, these independent restaurant owners do not lightly make decisions about making a living.

Hyoung Chang, the Denver Post

Bob Jones (left) and Melissa Shelton have a glass of wine in the outdoor dining room at The Bindery in Denver, Colorado Tuesday. January 5, 2021. The restaurant has reopened for 25% indoor dining under Level Orange.

“I fear that this shift in the level of public safety does not reflect what is happening in the hospitals, or that it comes too early or even sends the wrong message, no matter how difficult it is for me,” Linda Hampsten told Fox Monday night via Email as she prepared to reopen her dining room at The Bindery in the Lower Highland the next day.

In Le French, Hamidou Dia said he and his wife closed the restaurant for almost a month, but they opted for a 25% reopening just before the end of the year following Governor Polis’s announcement.

“I think financially it would have been better for us to stay closed,” he said.

“And the stress in my head too,” added Aminata. “I think it would have been a good time to take a break and prepare for the next steps.”

The Slides say they are choosing to continue working at a loss in January, only for their employees who would otherwise navigate a broken unemployment system and who were quite shaken by the second restaurant closings in the fall. But other restaurateurs say they have to close for the time being, regardless of morale.

“The sobering reality is that our small businesses will save more money – paying rent and utilities – during this hibernation than if we were operating at reduced capacity,” wrote Aileen and Paul Reilly, who run Uptown’s Beast + Bottle and Coperta restaurants Denver own via email.

“To be honest,” they added, “we don’t see 25% capacity as a financial opportunity. We still had problems at these levels in November. We will stick to our plan and continue to hope that the (case) numbers will decrease. “

Gabrielle Andreozzi, 27, has been a Coperta server for over two years. She said she was surprised by Reillys’ decision to close for a few months this winter, especially after building outdoor greenhouses and learning about the indoor meal allowance.

“I was worried about the intention to shut down, just like the last shutdown,” she said. “But last time several people were fired altogether, so I have a hard time not being asked to come back.”

Now, for the second time in a year, Andreozzi is managing unemployment with ease. She says she earned about 40% of her previous year’s income in 2020, including restaurant shifts and unemployment combined.

“This second time was a lot more difficult,” said Andreozzi. “I’m bringing in less money and have not been accepted for further extensions of things like car payments (and) student loans… My initial unemployment has expired and now I’m waiting for pandemic-specific support. In the past few years, I’ve had up to four jobs, two of which were full-time. So my income was way higher than the $ 15,000 I received before tax last year. “

With Andreozzi applying for a job and her employer waiting for paycheck protection (which lasted seven weeks in the spring), the slides are again 25% indoor. Your customers at Le French seem grateful, they say, calling them to ask how they are and commenting on the restaurant’s security logs.

CONNECTED: Restaurants should shut down indoor dining, although it’s devastating

At The Bindery this week, Hampsten Fox focused on keeping her restaurant area as safe as possible using an advanced HVAC system that includes 14 Mitsubishi air units spread across 25-foot ceilings and a 50-foot door wall design open to the outside world.

“We’re lucky,” she said. “If our room were different, we wouldn’t open again.”

However, Hampsten Fox believes that as part of the pandemic, which is ongoing in Denver, where the five-star certification process has not yet begun, restaurants should be assessed individually at this level. Under this program, companies that are certified by the county in advanced health and safety procedures can work with lower levels of restrictions and increased capacities.

For example, restaurants in counties that are now at orange level may move to yellow (50% indoor capacity) after the county reported a “7-day trend for average orange-level incidence,” according to the Colorado department. has retained. for public health and the environment.

But at Le French, Hamidou doesn’t see the restaurant increasing indoor capacity to 50% soon, even if allowed. And Hampsten Fox will have to take further capacity increases at The Bindery for personal reasons that are personal to her and her husband, a Denver doctor, just as seriously.

“With my husband risking his life treating COVID patients and after losing my brother-in-law to COVID this summer, I want my staff and guests to stay as safe as I would like for my family,” she said. “This is a restaurant and a lot of people worked very hard to make it what it is today, but in the end it is just a restaurant.”

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