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Colorado restaurants prepare for more restrictions, winter weather
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With winter weather approaching and more COVID-19 restrictions in place, Colorado restaurants are once again adapting to a new normal.

On October 27, the City and County of Denver announced it would be moving from “Safer Level 2” to the more restrictive “Safer Level 3” on the state’s COVID-19 dial dashboard in response to increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Several other counties across the state also announced they would be moving to more restrictive levels as the pandemic outlook worsens, including Adams County and Arapahoe County. Boulder County also announced it may need to move to Safer Level 3. If the situation in Denver doesn’t improve, a Stay at Home order is the next step.

Under Safer Level 3, restaurants can only operate at 25% capacity, down from 50% capacity at Safer Level 2. If a county enters a Stay at Home periodwhich is possible given the current trajectory in places like Denver—restaurants can only do takeout and/or delivery.

Colorado Voices

Denver Restaurants Tackle Cold and COVID-19 Restrictions

3:14
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Union Station restaurant embraces the cold and adapts to increasing pandemic restrictions.

Stoic & Genuine is a seafood restaurant in Denver’s Union Station. It is part of the Crafted Concepts ownership group, which also operates restaurants like Rioja and Bistro Vendome.

With new capacity restrictions brought on by the move to Safer Level 3, restaurants like Stoic & Genuine are working to come up with creative solutions, especially as the arrival of winter weather threatens the viability of outdoor dining.

Beth Gruitch is co-partner of Crafted Concepts. She said in order for restaurants to survive, “tables need to turn.” The restaurants are asking customers to limit their stay to two hours so more diners can be served and the restaurants can meet their financial goals.

“Our biggest challenge right now with this cold weather because we want to get as many people in as possible and allow them to have that opportunity to dine and enjoy their friendships, but we can’t have them here all night or we won’t be in business,” Gruitch said.

Gruitch added that they’ve been “thinking about the winter since June.” Part of their plan is encouraging diners to BYOB: bring your own blanket (they will also have space heaters).

Colorado Voices

Urban Beets Vegan Restaurant

1:48
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Arvada restaurant fights to stay open through COVID-19 pandemic and winter weather.

While Denver restaurants prepare for an uncertain future under Level 3 restrictions, Jefferson County is still under Safer Level 2. This includes parts of Arvada, where we find vegan restaurant Urban Beets.

Nicholas Allmond is one of the chefs at Urban Beets. He said live music and eating out are two of the things people miss most about pre-pandemic life.

“So we decided to more or less combine the two,” Allmond said. “Let's give people live music because they're cravin’ it and let's keep the good food flowing, and I think it's really worked.”

Not only has it worked, but Allmond said the live music has “saved” them. (Full disclosure: Rocky Mountain PBS photojournalist Jeffrey Dallet, who shot this interview, often plays shows at Urban Beets with his band.)

Being under Level 2 restrictions means Urban Beets can operate at 50% capacity, not to mention their outdoor dining. But as is the situation at Stoic & Genuine and other restaurants across the state, the cold weather will test Urban Beets’ outdoor dining ability.

They have found some ways to adapt. Thanks to a $5,000 grant from the state, the restaurant purchased outdoor space heaters to keep diners and performers warm.

“I'm sure we're going to mess some things up,” Allmond said. “But other people will do a better job than us in areas, and we'll learn lessons from them, and we’ll implement them onto our patio.”

Colorado Voices

Interview with CRA CEO Sonia Riggs

2:26
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Colorado Restaurant Association CEO Sonia Riggs talks about her nonprofit.

“The last year has been devastating for this industry,” said Sonia Riggs, the President and CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, which has existed since 1933. “We’ve seen hundreds of restaurants permanently close and many more that are struggling significantly.”

Riggs said in a recent survey conducted by the Colorado Restaurant Association, half of the restaurants said at 50% capacity, they would have to consider permanently closing after six months. With the capacity restrictions in many parts of the state now at 25%, Riggs fears even more restaurants will have to consider closing.

“I’m certainly hoping the public will consider supporting their local restaurant by ordering in, dining out if they feel comfortable, or considering curbside pick-up or delivery.”

Riggs said the Colorado Restaurant Association is working with the governor’s office to make sure restaurants can continue with outdoor dining during the winter months. On November 1, a grant program is launching on cooutdoordining.org where restaurants can apply for help.

“But we’re also going to need additional assistance I think from the federal government,” Riggs said. “That’s one of the things we’ve really, really been pushing hard for. Restaurants really are going to need some financial help if they’re going to survive the winter.”

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