One year after first Colorado case, Denver-area restaurants reflect on pandemic struggle

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — One year into the pandemic in Colorado, FOX 31 and Channel 2 checked back in with local restaurants that  scored an ‘A’ on Restaurant Report Card in the weeks before the first case. We flipped the script on them and asked them to grade the unprecedented experience over the last year. 

We started at The British Bulldog in Denver. The pub closed twice in the last year, most recently in November. The most recent move to fewer restrictions prompted the restaurant to open its doors last Friday. 

General Manager Samantha Alexandria opened up about the hardest part over the last 365 days. They lost a member of the team after having to slash jobs. 

“When they were put on furlough and when they were dealing with what’s going on in the world, and one of them did end up committing suicide, which was very unfortunate. And another one attempted suicide. So that’s been really hard to see a piece of our family leave this world,” said Alexandria. 

She said only a small portion of their original staff is back. She was able to find a silver lining and believes they will grow from this experience in the long run. Despite the hardship and heartache, she gave the last year a ‘C’. 

Next, we visited Jack’s and Steamers in Arvada. They never closed their doors but did have to cut jobs — something management and the owners wanted to prevent. 

“They are so much a part of what we do here and making sure that they still have the opportunity to still have the independence you get from being employed,” said General Manager Jeni Heit. 

She attributed the overwhelming community support to why they are still open and why they are adding even more jobs than they started with when the pandemic began. Looking back, she gave the overall experience an ‘A’. 

At Brooklyn’s Finest Pizza in Denver, owner Carlo Conti also struggled keeping employees on the payroll. 

“It’s one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done. I don’t wish it upon anyone,  especially when someone is doing a good job,” said Conti. 

Conti had opened a new location at the 16th Street Mall just before the start of the pandemic. He said that location has struggled as a result of little foot traffic in downtown. 

His location at Lowell Boulevard though has done well, even when the steady stream of Regis University students dried up. 

Conti also attributed surviving the last year to the community and loyal customers. 

“It was a terrible thing that happened, but I think the learning experience that came out of it, I think it was an ‘A’,” said Conti. 

A few weeks after the pandemic started, we checked in with a local hospitality support group, CHOW, which stands for Culinary Hospitality Outreach and Wellness. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, they cranked into overdrive to meet the needs of the industry workers who were losing their jobs and dealing with massive uncertainty. 

We checked back in with them this week and CHOW has added a new support group for Spanish speakers. They’ve also launched a support group in Minneapolis. 

CHOW has also continued its partnership with Khesed Wellness to offer therapy services. Visit the group’s website for more information.

Mental health resources:

If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or depression, the following resources are available:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255): Speak with someone who will provide free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To learn how to help someone in crisis, call the same number.

Colorado Crisis Services Hotline (1-844-493-8255): If you are in crisis or need help dealing with one, call 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 to speak to a trained professional. When calling Colorado Crisis Services, you will be connected to a crisis counselor or trained professional with a master’s or doctoral degree.

The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386): A 24/7 resource for LGBT youth struggling with a crisis or suicidal thoughts. The line is staffed by trained counselors.

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