Denver restaurant reopens indoor dining for first time since pandemic shutdown

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DENVER (KDVR) — A Denver restaurant celebrated a major milestone in the pandemic recovery Friday night, reopening indoor dining for the first time since the initial shutdown more than a year ago.

Sienna Wine Bar in the Congress Park neighborhood has relied on to-go orders since August. Owner Mary Kent says keeping indoor dining closed was a matter of safety.

“I was concerned about my staff getting sick and I just couldn’t live with myself so I stayed closed. But now everyone is fully vaccinated and that’s what the date is — a date after everyone has had their vaccination and two weeks have gone by. Everyone is safe,” said Kent.

Kent said they relied on neighborhood regulars to keep their to-go business afloat for months. She says government funding also allowed them to “keep the lights on.”

“I had my moments but it seemed like every time I was nervous something would come through. There was the paycheck loan and then the second paycheck loan and then a couple small grants from the city,” said Kent.

Kent said she was able to retain almost her entire staff. That’s a contrast to the trend seen across the restaurant industry.

“They are really having a hard time finding and retaining staff. Frankly, I’m hearing restaurants hold job fairs, they have a number of people set up for interviews and people just aren’t showing up,” said Sonia Riggs, President and CEO of Colorado Restaurant Association.

Riggs said the difficulty finding staff members could keep some restaurants from operating at full capacity even if it’s allowed. 

“It’s going to take time for us to truly know the impact that COVID had,” said Riggs.

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