Legislature: Restaurant and bar owners get creative to stay afloat

By Representative McLachlan
Special to the SUN
The joy of eating out after a long day, the fun of meeting friends for a drink or the convenience of buying a cup of coffee on the way to work have disappeared from our lives for a while. Gov. Jared Polis has ordered all dine-in establishments closed as we practice strict social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Delivery and take out are still options.
The accompanying jobs have also disappeared: the front-of-the house staff, chefs and cooks, dishwashers, bartenders, suppliers, truck drivers and cleaning crews. In a domino effect, also gone is the money these people make to pay rent, mortgages, utilities, food, travel and gasoline.
Throughout the country, restaurant and bar owners are trying to stay afloat, while patrons are trying to encourage their survival. Hundreds of people have been laid off, helping contribute to the 20,000-plus in Colorado who have filed for unemployment.
We in District 59 live in an area reliant on tourism, small businesses and the service industry. When all are virtually demolished overnight, the industry must adjust as our economy suffers.
Some businesses are being creative.
In Bayfield, Eepa’s Pizza is serving free “Stir Crazy Kits” for kids, so they can make their own pizzas at home, with help from donations from the Pine Valley Church. And thanks to the current suspension of liquor license requirements, the restaurant sells full pizzas, with beer or wine, for the adults.
Seasons of Durango has take-and-bake meals with wine pairings for its customers. You can call, order and have someone meet you curbside with dinner.
The Pagosa Baking Company is doing its best not to lay off employees. They surveyed their customers through Facebook to determine their favorite foods so customers can order by phone or at the front door. Delivery is at a drive-up window; they are keeping most of their staff busy, and paid.
For Father’s Daughters Pizza in Durango, gift certificates are becoming an important source of income. Their delivery and curbside business is still moving forward, but the certificates insure immediate cash now, with the promise of future customers later.
The beer and wine sales have attracted people to many restaurants they may have not tried before. Customers are still eating at home, but with the bonus of experiencing fine dining and the accompanying beverages. Several district restaurants said this practice is keeping them afloat.
Other establishments, because of their location, have found it hard to stay open.
Climb Elevated Eatery in Lake City had to lay off two of their four employees last week, then closed its doors until May on Friday. Their location, the owner said, in a small town with no tourism at the moment, made staying open difficult. Ouray County restaurant owners have the same lament.
Gunnison has several positive coronavirus diagnoses; tourists are not permitted in town, and all hotels and motels are closed. Residents over 60, those in the highest risk age, are not allowed in bars or restaurants.
Now that tourists aren’t allowed in Silverton, either, owners of The Avalanche closed Monday. The town simply doesn’t hold enough people to support the few restaurants.
Many bars and restaurants have closed, and whether it’s permanent or temporary is difficult to say. More are likely to join them.
Owners interviewed were more worried about their employees than their profits.
Some governmental help is available: the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans for Small Business is loaning up to $2 million to help. HUD is suspending foreclosures and evictions. FHA is insuring mortgages. The federal government is working on a national paid family leave program. Deadlines for federal and state tax filings have been delayed. As of writing, Congressional leaders are negotiating a bill to provide financial support to businesses and individuals. Please look out for additional economic assistance from the federal government.
For more information, go to www.covid19.colorado.gov/.
What can we do to help our economy’s restaurant and bar infrastructure?
• Buy gift cards. Give them to people in need or celebrate the restaurant’s re-opening when this is over.
• And when it’s over, come back. Shopping locally and using our dollars to help local residents is more important than ever.
• Tip well. Many staff members have been relying on their tips to pay their bills.
We are all in this together.

This story was posted on March 28, 2020.