Cherry Creek North Food & Wine has both expanded and contracted.
The annual event, which was held on one day up until 2019 and canceled entirely last year, is now a four-day event. It kicked off Wednesday and runs through Saturday.
But at the same time, the two “grand tasting” sessions initially planned for Saturday have been consolidated into one.
The nearly 15 restaurants participating expressed concerns about not having enough staff for two sessions, according to an organizer.
“The hospitality industry is really having a tough time finding the staff that they need to support their different services, and restaurants here in Cherry Creek North are definitely feeling that as well,” said Jeanine Johnson, director of marketing of the district. “When we were getting feedback from restaurants that (staffing) was becoming more of a struggle, we made the choice that we felt was absolutely best, to consolidate those two sessions into one.”
The single grand tasting will have a capacity of up to 600 people, Johnson said. Ticket prices were not changed from the original $150, and Cherry Creek North Food & Wine is hoping for the event to sell out as the rest of the smaller sessions of the week have, she said.
Those smaller sessions revolve around dining at specific Cherry Creek restaurants and in some cases learning skills, such as oyster shucking at Blue Island Oyster Bar & Seafood and determining “when to stir and when to shake” during a cocktail class at Le Bilboquet.
Nationwide, businesses have grappled with staffing shortages as restaurants, bars and other shops began to reopen after nearly a year of lockdowns. Some restaurants in Denver have reduced hours, offered increased pay or closed retail operations to maintain their businesses without a full staff.
But Johnson said patrons and restaurateurs she’s spoken with are eager for the four days of specialty dining since last year’s event was canceled altogether. The longer event will better highlight the individual restaurants that are participating, Johnson said.
“We have some various gatherings of culinary events, some of them as small as 10 people and some larger ones in outdoor settings with 500 people or more,” Johnson said. “We’ve taken it to a different level from years past and we really want to celebrate the restaurants here in Cherry Creek North.”
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