Curfew, protests set Denver restaurants back in reopening process

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DENVER (KDVR) — Members of Denver’s restaurant industry say this weekend will be their first “real test” in the reopening process following a series of setbacks.

“We kind of fell into a groove and then the protests started coming,” said Tim Kuklinski, culinary director with Crafted Concepts, which operates four fine dining restaurants including Stoic and Genuine in Union Station.

Kuklinski says Stoic and Genuine reopened May 27 as soon as it was allowed. He says things slowed down after the curfew was put in place in response to downtown protests. 

“We’re ready to get back to just turning the brains off a little bit and cooking and making people happy. Just doing all the things that we chose as a profession,” said Kuklinski.

Kuklinski says one of the restaurant’s biggest issues at this point is lack of capacity. He says they’re fortunate to have a steady flow of reservations, something other restaurants are still getting used to.

“We’re not a night club, this is not our business model. We’re going to give it a shot and see if we can figure it out,” said Jason Tietjen, managing partner at Dive Inn on South Broadway.

Reservations are encouraged under the statewide order but not required. Tietjen says they’re asking groups of four or more to call ahead in order to maximize capacity. He says their greatest challenge since reopening has been enforcing social distancing requirements.

“Especially after a few drinks, everyone wants to hug their old friends,” said Tietjen.

Dive Inn was the first Denver restaurant to receive approval for a patio expansion variance.

Tietjen says because their first weekend back open was cut short by the curfew, they haven’t had a chance to see how well the expansion is working for their business. Although the slow start was a challenge, Tietjen says it helped his restaurant prepare for what’s ahead.

“It was a great learning curve, I think we needed it. Quite honestly, I was happy it was a little bit of a slow start because it did give us some time to get dialed in. We should be ready for anything that’s thrown at us,” said Tietjen.

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