When Mayor Michael Hancock announced on March 16 that restaurants in Denver would have to close for dine-in service to contain the spread of the coronavirus, he first said the ordinance would be in effect until May 11. In a press conference on Monday, Hancock said the restaurant’s closure – and the social distancing measures associated with it – will likely take longer.
“The order is being extended, you can bet on it,” Hancock replied when asked by a reporter about the social distancing order and the restaurant’s closure, which began March 17.
When restaurants reopen, they will likely have to do so with drastically reduced capacity and additional social distancing protocols.
“I can tell you that a lot of (restaurants) have already started talking and thinking about opening protocols,” Hancock said. “But you can bet this will wear off a bit. We’re not just going to open the doors to restaurants and say, “Everyone’s coming.” ”
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Colorado Governor Jared Polis reiterated Hancock’s state message Monday afternoon. In a press conference discussing the transition from a stay-at-home to a safer-at-home policy from April 27, Polis reiterated that restaurants would not be among the first to do so that would result from this closure.
“My own goal would be mid-May,” Polis said of the restaurant reopening. Realistically, he said that restaurants with reduced capacity would be reintroduced, but no specific date or parameters were set.
A decision will only be made after a couple of weeks of data from the first wave of company reopening, Polis said. This brings the decision closer to mid-May with the understanding that restaurants cannot simply reopen overnight.
“I hope that sometime in May my family and your family can get to restaurants in Colorado,” he said.
Hancock also mentioned the possibility of “rolling” openings that would allow restaurants to gradually increase their capacity from 50% to eventually full capacity, but acknowledged that phasing out could be a financial challenge for some restaurants.
“Some (restaurant owners) may wait until it’s 80% or 90% as the cost of opening it comes down,” he said.
Opening at a drastically reduced capacity is an idea that “unfortunately some smaller venues cannot sustain,” said Jen Mattioni, co-owner of Q House restaurant.
After the restaurants closed for dine-in service, Q House quickly switched to take-out but was later closed to re-configure the restaurant’s business plan. Mattioni and her team have been closed for three weeks. Her plan is to start again with a streamlined menu next week.
Now Mattioni says she has numbers for potential financial scenarios that she could never have imagined when the 60-seat restaurant opened, which employs 15 people.
“I didn’t even really bother with what a timeline would look like (restarting the dine-in service),” Mattioni said. “There’s a lot to think about when it comes to spacing and capacity and how we can be as safe as possible, especially if not all of them can be tested before reopening.”
Sonia Riggs, CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, says her organization and its members are preparing for a gradual reopening – and the ongoing financial burden that will come from it.
Last week she and several Denver restaurateurs spoke to Hancock on the phone to discuss options such as increasing capacity incrementally.
“This will be financially difficult for restaurants,” Riggs said. “Many need full capacity for their business model to work. We have made suggestions to local and state authorities as to what they should consider to ensure restaurants are profitable during this process, such as: B. the continuation of the loose laws on take-away and delivery of alcohol. “
Riggs said she hopes the city and state governments will work closely on a reopening plan in due course.
“It will be important for the government to offer high-level policies while still being flexible about how restaurants comply with certain regulations …” she said. “We also hope to get notified as early as possible before the state cancels the stay-at-home order as restaurants need time to implement new policies with their staff and place orders for deliveries.”
As Q House’s Mattioni put it, “We’d pretty much more or less assume nothing.” Fortunately, she said, her staff are “on alert and ready to go back to work whenever it is appropriate for us”.
Whenever this happens, Mattioni says she will continue to weigh the company’s needs while trying to act responsibly. She feels that there will be a long time before Q House and other restaurants can function as usual.
“That seems months away,” she said. “Honest.”
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