DENVER (CBS4) – The city and county of Denver put their own public health policy in place on Friday with the end of the state’s COVID dial, maintaining the blue level restrictions on the previous scale. There will continue to be capacity and distance requirements both indoors and outdoors, creating challenges for companies working to get back to pre-pandemic conditions.
“I think it’s probably a much smarter move because it’s difficult to make a global decision when you have these microcosms of effects,” said Christine Parisi, the owner of two restaurants on Tennyson Street.
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Local health officials are now expected to monitor cases and other factors related to COVID-19 and establish appropriate guidelines by the end of the pandemic. Parisi runs a restaurant of the same name and, prior to the pandemic, Firenze a Tavola, but closed that part of her business.
“It’s a conscious effort by the government to release this information that is 100% busy, but it gives this public the wrong perception that we are back to normal,” she told CBS4.
She has been in the restaurant business for 23 years but says the last 13 months have been different from anything she has experienced before. Parisi spends more time in her office than ever before, taking on new responsibilities and learning about aspects of current government restrictions as they become necessary.
“This is the first time I’ve had to turn away from the actual restaurant business and just learn how to deal with the current situation. So it didn’t feel like I was running a restaurant last year,” she said. “Just getting prepared for another shoot and a bit hesitant to believe that things will just go away.”
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Unemployment claims are an example of the new reality. The volume is way above anything she’s used to, with a steady rotation of employees who have worked for her in the past. The team she has now is managing the current factors of COVID as best they can, but social distancing is preventing her from moving to the next step.
Six feet between the tables forces her to keep the cubicles empty because she can’t move them in the dining room. It’s a challenge that other restaurants their size and smaller face under the new chapter of COVID regulations. The Colorado Restaurant Association asked local and state executives to consider this when updating the guidelines. Parisi can only achieve 25% capacity due to the current distance requirement.
“It’s a wrong perception, it gives people the idea that we should be happy and grateful that we’re back to normal now if we’re really still trying to get around this awkwardly,” said Parisi. “And I don’t want to put tables on the ceiling anytime soon.”
Parisi respects the process and considerations that health orders take into account with this restriction, but says this will deter her from returning to the climate she remembers before the pandemic. Not only are booths a challenge, they also cannot place most of the spots on the bar.
The next hurdle is a hiring surge, which all restaurants are currently participating in. According to Parisi, many of her former employees have made career changes or are unwilling to leave unemployment and return to their old jobs. As a result, their current employees are doubling down and serving food that is focused on volume rather than the pre-COVID experience. She estimates that due to the nature of the orders they get mostly from customers, they make less money on all of this work. She says the pandemic will have an ongoing impact, more complicated than some people think, and affect the way they eat out for a few more years.
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“Then I can actually run both restaurants, which is normal for me,” she said of the regaining full capacity and its original staff. “I keep my eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel and try to be optimistic about this situation.”