Some Colorado restaurants staying closed despite statewide reopening

Even as Colorado Gov. Jared Polis eases restrictions, allowing dine-in service to resume as it has in several other states, Colorado restaurants aren’t all rushing to open their doors.

Over the holiday weekend, Polis set a restaurant reopening date of May 27 and released guidelines for restaurants to allow them to operate at a maximum 50% capacity — but with no more than 50 patrons inside — with tables spaced six feet apart and only parties of eight or fewer allowed.

Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday said that Denver, too, could reopen its restaurants Wednesday alongside the rest of the state, adding only that diners as well as restaurant employees would be required to wear masks “except while eating and drinking,” according to a city release.

With two days notice, restaurant owners scrambled to decide when and how to reopen, with some opting out altogether for another week or more.

“I know many places are trying to normalize all the reminders of a pandemic situation, but I cannot get behind that,” Christine Parisi, president of Parisi and Firenze a Tavola on Tennyson Street, told The Denver Post.

“Rules, masks, signage, side eyes from other customers watching everyone’s move, constant sanitizing sessions, varying degrees of the public’s reaction to the requirements of the public … all make for a tangled web of very uncomfortable scenarios for a small business and my staff,” she said.

Parisi said she would hold off on any scaled re-openings until Monday, June 8. Other owners have set their own opening dates throughout the next month, and now the focus shifts to training staff.

“A lot of this does not have to do with the restaurant being physically ready,” said Linda Hampsten Fox, who owns The Bindery in Lower Highland. “I think psychologically and emotionally, we’re going to use this time now to really get the team ready.”

Hampsten Fox and about 75% of her pre-coronavirus team have been working throughout the pandemic on designing new table layouts, creating an indoor-outdoor dining space and installing a greenhouse in the restaurant’s bakery and market to bring the outdoors inside, and vice versa.

They’ll take advantage of existing patio space and wrap it around the restaurant but will still only be able to seat as much as 50% of their previous capacity, she said.

“This story is not ending, we are still in a pandemic … It’s the next two, four, six months that’s going to really be important to all of us (restaurants),” she said.

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

El Five general manager Issac Krejci, left, hands boxes of food to Jack Cassidy outside El Five restaurant in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Cassidy used to work at the restaurant. Edible Beats the, company that owns El Five, was handing out meals to DPS families and former employees.