Metro Denver restaurants reopen to dine-in customers: ‘It’s been a long, hard road’


ARVADA, Colo. (KDVR) — Wednesday marked the first day most Denver-area restaurants could reopen to dine-in customers since March, when Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order went into effect. Some Colorado counties, including Douglas County in the southern metro area, had already been allowed to begin reopening through state-approved variances.

The state has a number of guidelines in place for restaurants, including restricting indoor capacity to 50% of what it would normally be. However, there is no limit on how many customers can be served outdoors.

In Arvada on Wednesday, there was a steady stream of customers at local establishments, but no large crowds waiting to be seated.

Dave Read is the owner of Smokin’ Fins in Olde Town Arvada.

“Thank you very much (for coming in),” Read told customers.

Inside, Read has a number of social distancing measures in place.

“It’s been a long, hard road — as all businesses know. But (we are) looking to get back to what we know and what we do best,” said Read.

Outside the restaurant, preparations are underway to shut down Olde Wadsworth Boulevard so restaurants can increase outdoor seating capacity.

It’s good news for School House Kitchen and Libations, whose staff are eager to set up tables.

“We are a family here. We want to bring our entire staff back and for them to have the tables for them to take care of,” said Andrew Busold, the bar manager at School House.

Tables will be spaced out on the popular street once needed equipment like barriers arrive.

Smaller businesses like Spirits Wine and Provisions hope to profit off of it as well.

“We’re hoping with the foot traffic, but it definitely is a challenge for us. We don’t have a massive operation,” said Casey Adler, the store’s owner.

At Barbed Wire Reef in north Denver, owner Rico Aragon says it’s already clear patio space will be at a premium. 

“Everybody wants a seat outside,” he said. “Every single table has sat outside today. Only one person sat at the bar, that’s it.” 

He’s applied for a patio extension from the City of Denver, but is still waiting to be approved. 

At Monkey Barrel Bar, staff say customers have also been favoring the patio. 

Inside, they used the down time to add a brick-and-mortar version of the Adobo Food Truck. 

“You’re excited by the challenge, but wary because it’s different and unique, and we’re trying to be careful,” says Chef Blaine Baggao. 

Baggao says the 50% capacity limit will make it tough to turn a profit, but says it’s a step in the right direction. 

“It’s a challenge, but in the restaurant industry, we’re the MacGyver of situations,” he jokes. 

Baggao also hopes people trust their favorite restaurants enough to dine in. 

“I understand why it’s scary, and I understand the concerns,” he says. “The professionals of this industry who take it serious, have you very well protected.” 

The Colorado Restaurant Association has started a statewide list of restaurants that have reopened or are reopening soon.

Visit the CRA’s website to see the list.

Restaurant owners can add their establishment to the list by filling out an online form.

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