When restaurants reopen for dinner this week, one thing will quickly become clear: which restaurants are not coming back at all.
The 3-year-old 12 @ Madison from Congress Park announces its closure no later than after the 10-week shutdown of the coronavirus in Denver. The 40-seat restaurant was too small to reopen under current guidelines, according to a press release.
“It would be incredibly difficult to create adequate social distance in this room, even with the patio,” the press release said. “12 @ Madison was conceived as a restaurant that thrived on intimacy – from shared small plates to human interactions. This model is simply not sustainable for the foreseeable future. “
12 @ Madison was owner Jeff Osaka’s second restaurant of the same name. The first 12 opened in Denver in 2008 and closed in 2014.
“Not that it’s worse or better, but closing a second time isn’t good,” said Osaka. “I know we could have tried – the new buzzword is pivotal – but I think it would have lost its integrity as a restaurant.”
CONNECTED: Denver restaurants that have permanently closed due to coronavirus
When restaurant owners think about what formats and models will be sustainable in the future, they rely on options like expanded outdoor seating, continued delivery and takeaway alcohol, and the start of dining rooms reserved for reservations only.
They’re tailoring menus to customer tastes even during an ongoing pandemic, and they hope the public will want to eat out now or at some point.
Across town, Frank Bonanno will reopen his flagship fine-dining restaurant, Mizuna, on Friday, but it will only seat 16 people a night, under new state and city guidelines of 50% indoor capacity and six feet between tables. To make the numbers work for him and his staff, he offers a 3-course tasting menu valued at $ 95 and nothing else.
“You are essentially paying your table for the night,” said Bonanno. “Restaurants, and it’s my fault, we’ll try to get you out of there as soon as possible. So let’s go the opposite way and make it as safe and enjoyable as you are used to. Maybe this is the time to do so and allow people to have a really high quality experience with as little contact as possible. “
Whether or not people still want a high-end dining experience remains to be seen when more than 550,000 Coloradans file for unemployment.
“It’s a big game of chance,” said Bonanno. “Hopefully there are people out there who still want a real dining experience.”
After the closure of 12, a small eatery that many diners consider upscale, Osaka is wondering if “the playing field should be a little more balanced in terms of food.”
“What may be left (after the coronavirus) is your quick service or fast food or a lot of people with deep pockets, your multiple unit operations,” he said. “And unfortunately the landscape will be a little homogeneous or a little boring, I’m afraid.”
As its own restaurant closes, Osaka is more concerned about family-owned, international restaurants and first-generation owners for whom English is a second language.
“I think it will be a success or failure for this sector too,” he said. “It’s tough because you’re calling me and I appreciate it. But who is calling you? “
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