When I spoke to Thomas on Friday, March 13, his message to guests was, “as long as you’re feeling well, come out and dine.” By the next day, things felt very different. On Saturday, March 14th, I saw a different kind of social media post from one of my personal favorite restaurants in Denver, Sam’s No. 3. “[We have] elected to take a position of leadership by suspending service and thus limiting exposure to the virus,” they wrote. Others soon followed suit.
As both a freelance writer who is largely focused on the Denver food scene and the Marketing Director for Bacon Social House, an eatery with two locations in the Denver metro area (along with one in Minneapolis), I’ve had a front row seat to the speed at which this situation has developed for the restaurant community. We went from taste testing St. Patrick’s food specials and planning a well deserved staff party to an all hands on deck COVID-19 response in a matter of hours. I wrote a statement for customers on Tuesday that already felt outdated on Wednesday. Our conversations as a team turned quickly from concerns for staff, to concerns for supplies, to concerns for customer health and safety, and back again. As sports seasons were cancelled and grocery stores sold out of essentials, a sense of responsibility to provide people not only access to food, but an escape, became hard to shake.
The work done in restaurants and bars is not glamorous, and the industry is tough in normal times. As Thomas put it, for most small, independently-owned restaurants, “all it takes is a week, one bad week, and the doors have to close.” At the time of this writing, the City of Denver announced that all bars and restaurants must close until at least May 11.
But even as closures become a reality, restaurants are taking action. Vine Street is planning to keep its kitchens open to provide take out for its neighbors, and has also offered to provide two meals a day for all staff members via curbside pickup. Annette will pivot to pick up starting Tuesday, March 17. Onefold has added booze to its delivery options, so you can unwind with a Bloody Mary from the comfort of your couch, and Attimo is doing the same with wine. Dos Santos is selling taco kits to-go. The hospitality community is using #ColoradoCurbside on Instagram to share their to-go options, so search that for the latest additions.
The situation remains as fluid as it is uncertain, but one thing is for sure. Denver’s restaurants and bars will not give up easily -- on their staff or their communities. Hospitality is all about providing for others, and nothing, not even a pandemic, is going to stop that. Even facing closures, it’s teamwork, creative solutions, and a pure desire to help that’s taking the forefront in the food and beverage community right now. And while no one in the industry has faced anything like this before, everyone seems to agree that we’re in this together.
Here’s how you can keep supporting local food and beverage establishments while social distancing:
- Buy gift cards
- Order takeout and delivery (many delivery services are waiving the typical fees restaurants pay for these services so your money is directly supporting small businesses)
- Shop online merch stores
- If you’re stocking up on booze, opt for products from local breweries and distilleries
- Write reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google location pages, and the rest. Write about why you love the places you frequent and share those five-star experiences so that when restaurants can reopen, they've got their online reputation backing them up.
- Show your favorite spots some love on social media -- some kind words can go a long way right now. Use the hashtag #wegotthisdenver