DENVER (KDVR) – The Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) released the results of a new survey reporting 79% of restaurants say they will consider shutting down permanently within six months if they are forced to close indoor dining again because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Restaurants are scared. They’ve been devastated over the past seven months. They are really nervous as we start to see other states shut down and winter approaching quickly. 50% capacity was already crippling for restaurants. Now we are seeing many counties to 25% restriction, which is even more devastating. What the survey said to us (is) if state ends up shutting down restaurants again, about 25% are going to be closing almost immediately and that’s permanently. And that is extremely frightening,” CRA CEO Sonia Riggs said.
She said 15 of Colorado’s 64 counties counties are already operating with 25% capacity restrictions and more are adding restrictions every day.
The new restrictions come as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations skyrocket to record-breaking levels in Colorado.
Riggs said, “Remember: the restaurant industry is generally 10% of Colorado’s workforce. So this is a devastating blow as we are seeing more and more restaurants having to consider closing permanently or reduce capacity. Staff is being heavily affected as well. Any further restrictions are going to be catastrophic for this industry.”
The group that runs Rioja, Stoic & Genuine, Bistro Vendome, and Ultreia restaurants in downtown Denver say the uncertainty is challenging. Matthew Brooks is the director of operations.
“It’s been a little slow past couple of weeks. We were able to expand our patios at all four of our restaurants. I won’t lie and tell you it doesn’t wake me up at 2:30 in the morning thinking about the restaurants and all our amazing team,” Brooks said.
He said they have invested in outdoor dining and additional safety measures for guests and staff and have daily discussions about how to survive the pandemic.
“We’ve been focusing the entire year on how do we put ourselves in a really good position to last January until April. January, February and March in the restaurant business already very tough. We will do everything we can to stay here for the future,” Brooks said.
According to the survey by the Colorado Restaurant Association:
If indoor dining is shut down again:
79% will consider closing permanently in 6 months.
59% won’t make it 3 months.
24% will survive less than 1 month.
If capacity is restricted to 25%:
73% will consider closing permanently in 6 months
45% will consider closing permanently in 3 months
9% will consider closing permanently in 1 month
Riggs said, “The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment actually told us early on in this pandemic that it might be a safer option for those high-risk communities to get delivery or take out from restaurants because you can do virtually contactless delivery in those circumstances. We feel like it’s better to have people in an environment that is already uniquely qualified to keep people safe. So restaurants already have to go above and beyond food safety issues. When you’re moving people out of that regulated space and into private gathering space, those restrictions just aren’t being adhered to. We really think it makes more sense to have people in a space where they are monitored by people already educated to keep those folks safe.”
She said the restaurant industry feels like it is being unfairly targeted.
“Where we are seeing the outbreaks happen is in private gatherings and schools, frankly, and you’re just not seeing high percentage of cases come from restaurants. In fact, it’s extremely low, not only here but around the United States,” Riggs said.
She is encouraging people to support their local restaurants.
“Whether they are healthy and feel safe dining out, or if they don’t feel safe, order in or take out would be hugely helpful to this struggling industry. I know we don’t think about winter and outdoor dining, but I’m hoping people will rethink the way they are approaching restaurants this year. There are restaurants making some really fun spaces that might make some unique exciting experiences during the winter months. We are hoping people will take advantage of that,” Riggs said.