Update 12:06 p.m. March 15: Editor’s Note: As the coronavirus outbreak evolves, official guidelines for activities considered low risk may change and companies may change their hours of operation accordingly. Beginning Sunday March 15, some Denver restaurants will be preventively closed while others will stay open or just switch to takeout or delivery. Check with local health authorities such as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for the latest guidelines and check with companies to make sure they are open before visiting.
On Thursday morning Jason and Jeanette Burgett opened their Highland café, the wooden spoon, as usual at 7 a.m. Her team put fresh pastries in the display case and started making egg sandwiches and scrambled eggs.
And when customers went to the counter to take those orders, the staff put on gloves and handed out boxes to take away. They asked everyone – politely – to eat their food elsewhere. On the opposite wall of the restaurant, all 18 chairs were on a row of tables.
“We only had a few (customers) who left. That being said, they were all grateful for it, ”said Jason Burgett of the decision to not sell take-out until Thursday.
In the past few weeks, the Burgetts have taken additional precautions to refurbish their small, ten-year-old café and kitchen in the neighborhood.
“And then last night,” said Burgett, “when it all escalated, not all of us have health insurance.” In order to keep us all safe and to work, we decided to make everything take away. So there are no people sitting literally two feet apart. “
On Wednesday evening, President Trump spoke to the nation regarding the new coronavirus. Earlier that day, the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. As of Thursday, the U.S. stock market posted its largest decline since 1987.
Restaurants in Denver and elsewhere couldn’t do anything else and responded with specialty drinks, free deliveries, and even changes in their business structure to stay open.
“We’re trying to take every precaution for all of us here,” said Burgett. “This is how we make money from customers, and when customers get sick we can’t help them.”
While the wooden spoon is only liable for the implementation until the virus is “contained a little”, other restaurant owners proceed differently to ensure the safety of their employees and customers as well as themselves in the business. At Chook’s two Denver locations, Id Est Restaurants and more, roadside pickup is a new option for customers.
On East Colfax, Vince Howard said he is running his recently opened Tessa Delicatessen as usual, although “I wanted the bathrooms to smell like comets this morning,” he added.
Howard said the recommended washing and cleaning protocols are “really things we already do in a restaurant”. He had posted a message on Tessa’s Instagram account the day before, in which he assured customers of his own precautions and urged them to act responsibly in return. When they are sick, they should order food through delivery channels.
“We are here to serve our guests,” read the message. “We do this with cleanliness and pride in our health and our craft. What we do for you is so important to us. “
With the new coronavirus spreading around the world and restaurants continuing to serve their customers, they have been some of the indirect victims – be it through racism against Chinese-owned companies, curfews and bans in countries like Italy, or canceled events and festivals like South by Southwest in Texas.
While older populations and those with pre-existing health conditions are most at risk, restaurant workers are often employed without health insurance or other work-related benefits to help them with illness.
“Here’s the thing: Food service employees, whether they work at the cheap buffet or in the fancy restaurant, don’t want to get sick either,” wrote Peter Meehan, food editor for the LA Times, in a column on Thursday. “If you can’t trust them to do their best to keep yourself – and you – safe, your problems are deeper than a (newspaper) grocery department can help you.”
Earlier this week, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced that companies will have to compensate sick workers while they take time to get tested and wait for results to return. Local burrito chain Illegal Pete’s goes a step further by offering paid time off to sick employees.
“Honestly, I’m more concerned about the food service workers than about their customers,” said Elaine Scallan Walter, associate professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health at Aurora. “I don’t think there is a reason for those who are not at high risk not to go out (to eat),” she added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, older adults and those with serious underlying conditions like heart disease or diabetes should avoid crowds and practice social distancing as much as possible. Those who are healthy should prevent disease by washing or disinfecting their hands frequently, avoiding close contact in public, and covering up a cough or sneeze.
However, nationwide data that Resy, the booking platform, sent to its restaurant customers earlier this week shows that reservations were already down 65% in Seattle and 30% in New York City on Tuesday. “All restaurants should expect a significant drop in coverage and sales in April and May,” the platform said.
Lucy Beaugard, provided by The Bindery
A customer orders from the to-go counter at The Bindery in Lower Highland.
The Bindery has seen a slowdown in midweek dinner reservations, according to Linda Hampsten Fox, owner of the Denver restaurant.
“I think when people finish their workday, part of the food they eat at home is to stay away from viruses and crowds, but also to save money,” she said. “As a restaurant owner, there are so many strangers that we address as quickly as possible.”
For them, part of eliminating these unknowns means that the dining room is well ventilated, the tables are safely separated from each other, the bathrooms are cleaned hourly, and the entire restaurant is cleaned on a daily basis. Hampsten Fox said it is also expanding takeout lunch options and is even launching its own dinner delivery service within a 1/2 mile radius.
Delivery companies like Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, and Caviar all have options for orders that stop at the door of a restaurant. Uber, DoorDash, and Caviar are offering paid time off for up to two weeks to drivers diagnosed with COVID-19 or who are either quarantined or isolated.
“I think for those at higher risk … delivery is probably a good option,” said Scallan Walter of the Colorado School of Public Health. “It’s not a food-borne disease, but I think we are still learning a lot. So does it stay on surfaces? Should you worry about the packaging? These things are still unknown. You may want to wash your hands after removing food from the packaging. “
As guidelines change day by day, Scallan Walter still teaches personal courses for graduate students at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus. And she lives her life outside of work too.
“I think you will be able to visit your local cafe or restaurant and take the recommended precautions, certainly at the moment that seems a sensible option,” she said, adding, “Well, I’m going out tonight . ”
Advice on the delivery of food
Sonia Riggs, CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, said she should contact restaurants directly for delivery “as sometimes third-party vendors list restaurant menus without permission and may post an outdated menu.”
“And as a reminder to customers,” she said, “restaurants train rigorously to prevent the spread of disease and they are heavily governed by the Health Act.” We have heard of many restaurants that implement hygiene practices well beyond what is required to ensure a safe and comfortable experience for guests, regardless of whether those guests walk in or out. “
Updated March 13 at 1:05 p.m.The following corrected information has been added to this article: The state of the US stock market was previously incorrectly reported due to a reporting error. On Thursday, March 12th, the Dow saw its biggest daily dip since 1987.
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