‘Our restaurants are neighborhood institutions’: Polis asking for aid to restaurant industry


DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said there were 1,048 new positive COVID-19 cases in the state reported on Monday. There are currently 290 hospitalizations, which he says is the highest number since May.

The World Health Organization said a positivity rate under 5% is the goal. Currently, Colorado is at 5.4% and had a 6.4% on Monday, Polis said. The largest rise in positive cases is in Adams and Denver counties.

During a news conference on Tuesday, the governor focused on the economic impact of COVID-19 on the state, specifically the restaurant industry. Many eateries have folded completely while others are struggling with take-out and in-person dining with limited capacity.

“They (restaurants) represent more than dollars and cents. Our restaurants are neighborhood institutions,” Polis said. “They’re gathering places. They’re community building places. They’re part of our rich cultural fabric.”

Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) president and CEO Sonia Riggs said 65% of restaurants will close in the next six months if the situation does not change. The CRA is meeting with vendors and designers on Oct. 19 to work on designing concepts to allow for dining outside during the winter.

“Restaurants will then have access to funding to assist them in building their own solutions. We have surveyed restaurants monthly since the pandemic started and their biggest needs are cash and increased capacity,” Riggs said. “This program offers both. A way to creatively add seats this winter and cash assistance to actually build these solutions.”

Riggs said restaurants will have access to funding to help with winter outdoor dining adjustments from a program hosted by the CRA, Xcel Energy and other sponsors.

Aileen Reilly, co-owner of Beast + Bottle and Coperta in Denver, said sales are down 45%.

“We are now facing winter. We have invested in greenhouses to replace outdoor seating, but this is significant capital expenditure when we are already in the middle of a very difficult year,” Reilly said. “Last weekend, a wind storm took down our tents, destroying them and leaving us without covered seating as the temperatures drop.”

Xcel President, Alice Jackson said, “by working together to come up with innovative and feasible solutions to make outdoor dining not only viable in the winter but also comfortable and fun, we can help sustain as many restaurants as possible in the winter time and beyond.”

Xcel Energy and Xcel Energy Foundation announced the largest gift in their history to the state pledging $500,000 in aide. The company is also matching $250,000 for fundraising and an additional $50,000 for every $500,000 raised.

Polis said the state is working on better proxies for successful social distancing in restaurants and bars, pointing out the last call time is a local decision. Some areas with low numbers of cases can still serve until 2 a.m. while others, such as Denver, remain at 11 p.m.

“Together, We can establish Colorado as a national leader in keeping customers safe and adapting to this new normal,” Polis said.

Another way to donate to help Colorado’s economy is through helpcoloradonow.org. Polis said he has been donating part of his salary to the fund.

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