Colorado stimulus: Too little, too late for RiNo restaurateur

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — As state lawmakers finalized COVID-19 relief packages on Wednesday, some restaurant owners said the stimulus was too little, too late.

An industry survey shows more than 1/4 of restaurants in Colorado will consider closing in a month under indoor dining restrictions. Some were forced to close as the latest restrictions went into place.

Julep: Southern Table & Whiskey House, known for its biscuits and Po’ Boys, had been a RiNo neighborhood favorite for the past three years until about two weeks ago.

“We kind of had to scramble and make the decision to close just based on the dine-in service,” owner Katy Foster said. “We weren’t intending to do that at all.”

Foster closed up shop just as Colorado lawmakers prepared COVID-19 relief bills for the special session this week, but the help didn’t come fast enough.

“Unfortunately, we got to the point that we can’t make business decisions with the hope that we’re going to get some sort of relief,” she said. “Hope doesn’t pay bills.”

Foster’s is just one story of business collapse. Like the virus, it’s spreading across the state. Foster and her husband now have more of a focus on their second business, Stir Cooking School, in Denver’s Lower Highlands neighborhood.

“We’re going to do pop-ups [at Stir],” Foster said.

The “pop-ups” feature favorites, announced weekly, including some from Julep, that are available for takeout. It’s a business model that’s more of a trend and is showing promise of sustained popularity even after society emerges from the COVID-19 darkness.

As for the eateries still holding on, state lawmakers admit Colorado stimulus will only help so much.

“Some of the small business grants are like $7,000, for instance,” Foster said. “That literally does nothing.”

All eyes are now on Congress. Business owners worry they may have to wait until after Jan. 20, 2021– Inauguration Day— to receive their next lifeline. Restaurant association research shows hundreds of locations in Colorado will consider closing during that time— creating more pressure on Congress and President Donald Trump to make a deal.

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