Restaurants near convention center say they’ll continue to struggle despite partial reopening

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DENVER (KDVR) – The temporary transformation of the Colorado Convention Center into an emergency hospital is taking a toll on local restaurants.

The state’s joint information center confirmed: “The State of Colorado has a lease for a medical shelter at the convention center until December 31, 2020.”

On a summer-like day, places like Pizza Republica near the convention center would normally be packed. The owner, George Eder, said, “They just told me they are keeping the convention center closed until January of next year. I really don’t know what we’re going to do down there. All of my business comes from conventions and theater and there is no conventions or theater. We are down 95 percent at that property. I can give you an easy financial picture: last June I did $250,000 in sales at the convention center. This June, I’ll probably do $10,000. If there was a convention, we’d be completely packed and crazy down there.”

His Greenwood Village location reopened and was already seeing a steady stream of customers. Eder said they are closing both locations daily from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. for cleaning and sanitizing.

Eder is hoping to work with the city on rent for his convention center location.

“We are going to talk to city and see if they can help us. They are our landlord. What can they do with our lease? I don’t know how to do it down there. I literally have no sales,” he said.

Eder also said it’s not just restaurants, but hotels and retail shops in the area are hurting too.

Location is not the only challenge for restaurants trying to reopen. Greg Hollenback, host of The Modern Eater Show, said, “Some restaurant owners would have liked to have had a week lead time to get ready. The challenges are just getting it going again, working with vendors. Staff is a huge issue right now. Some are out of state, some have other jobs and some just don’t want to come back yet.”

Hollenback is taking his show on the road for the next month and will feature different restaurants every day. He will also do an agricultural tour, visiting ranches, farms and breweries around the state.

“What we are trying to do is stick your toe in the water before you get in. That’s what we’d like to do, is be that toe in the water. It’s important for people to see the individual practices,” he said.

Restaurants like Pizza Republica are following strict guidelines, spacing out tables and sanitizing regularly.

“I’m really, really happy and I’m anxious because there are so many new rules. How are people going to perceive it? I want to keep my staff safe, I want to keep my guests safe. So it’s a little bit of take it one day at a time. The last thing I want is for someone to get sick, but I have obligations, I have to pay my vendors, my rent and all those pieces. We will keep that moving and do it as safely as possible,” Eder said.

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