Lifestyle

What to Know About Denver Businesses Reopening

Stay safe out there.

We’ve come a long way since March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, when all of the city’s bars and restaurants shuttered as it became clear that COVID-19 was here to stay a while. We went nearly a month without any options for leaving our houses besides neighborhood walks and bikes rides. But then, on April 22, golf courses reopened, followed soon after by farmers markets, hair salons, and finally, restaurants -- masks and social distancing required, of course.

But reopening hasn’t looked the same for everyone. Although restaurants were allowed to open on May 27, many waited. In an Instagram video posted on May 27, Caroline Glover, the award-winning chef/owner of Annette said, ”a lot of y’all have reached out to ask if we will be reopening our dining room this week. The answer is no. We will not be reopening our dining room. We just don’t feel like it’s quite time.” Instead, on June 3, they opened their patio only for dine-in and continue to offer to-go options. 

But the demand from consumers to go out -- for food, drinks, and fun, is apparent. “Before we eventually opened back up for regular service [on June 6] pretty much every phone call was someone wanting to make a reservation and ready to dine-in with us,” said Jason Isch, Director of Operations for brunch spot Bacon Social House. Despite some uncertainty around what demand for dining out would be like once the doors actually opened, their opening weekend was filled to (the new, limited) capacity. 

Now, Governor Polis has introduced the latest phase of reopening, “Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors,” which expands options for both indoor and outdoor gatherings. As things continue to open back up and feel a bit more normal, you should still opt for safety. Wear your mask, keep your distance from those not in your party, and take advantage of the ample sanitizer provided at businesses of all kinds now.

Restaurants

Dining out is back, but it definitely looks quite different. Both the state of Colorado and city of Denver gave the go-ahead for restaurants to reopen for indoor and outdoor starting on May 27 with a long list of new health and safety requirements. Among other rules, the new guidelines limit indoor seating to 50% capacity or 50 people, whichever is less, and requires tables to be spaced apart so that parties can maintain 6 feet of distance between them. Parties are also limited to 8 people or less, and both staff and guests are required to wear masks while not eating or drinking (so yes, you do need to put on your mask to go to the restroom). 

The final guidelines were not released until just two days before the reopening date, so while some, like Tessa Delicatessen and Bonanno Concepts locations (which includes Mizuna, French 75, Osteria Marco, and more) did reopen on day one, many waited a bit longer. Others,  like Illegal Pete’s, are still phasing in reopening plans. They opted to fully close and skip the takeout push, but are now opening their locations in waves, starting with South Broadway on June 18, Colfax, DU, Northside, and Fort Collins on June 29, and more to follow in July and August. 

As part of the reopening, restaurants were also able to apply for new extended outdoor dining spaces. Spuntino, which managed to keep all of their staff employed through the entire shutdown, has transformed a parking lot into an al fresco dining experience, and soon you’ll be able to book an outdoor table on the Wewatta bridge at Coohills. The city of Denver is also working on plans to close some streets this summer for even more expanded outdoor seating opportunities.

Bars & breweries

Booze to-go has been one of the rare bright sides in the pandemic closures (and a bill is on the governor’s desk which will allow it to continue through July 1, 2021), but sipping those cocktails and craft beers at home isn’t quite the same as saying “cheers” to your friends bar-side. 

Breweries were able to reopen along with restaurants (with the same restrictions) providing they partnered with a food vendor. It wasn’t rare to find a food truck posted up at a brewery in the past, so this won’t be a huge change. Along with food trucks, some breweries, like Woods Boss, were able to partner with neighboring restaurants -- you can now get eats from Carbon, ClusterTruck, and Escapology while relaxing inside their spacious taproom or on the patio. 

Bars that do not offer dining were excluded from the original restaurant reopening guidelines, but on June 15, Governor Polis announced that they could also reopen starting June 18 with 25% capacity or 50 people indoors, whichever is fewer. Like restaurants, some bars may choose to wait a bit longer or opt for outdoor only seating to start, but regardless, there will definitely be plenty of celebratory shots served at neighborhood watering holes all over the Mile High soon.

Theaters 

The governor’s June 15 announcement also included draft guidelines for indoor events like plays and movies. Occupancy restrictions (25%, or up to a certain limit based on square footage) will be in place, which means opening may not be a viable option for many. The Denver Center for Performing Arts already announced the cancellation of 25 shows, with the earliest rescheduled event planned for mid-August. 

Some smaller venues, like the Buntport Theatre, are trying out some creative approaches to performance. They quickly sold out a run of The Grasshoppers, a “mini drive-in live theatre performance.”

Drive-in’s have made a big come back for movie-goers as well. While traditional indoor theatres remain closed, the Denver Mart Drive-In and 88 Drive in Theatre have been selling out quickly. 

Cultural institutions

Cultural institutions with mainly outdoor spaces were the first to come back. The Denver Botanic Gardens reopened May 22 with limited occupancy, followed by the Denver Zoo on June 12. Both require all tickets to be purchased in advance. 

Other destinations that are primarily indoors, like the Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Nature & Science, have yet to announce reopening plans, but with the new indoor event guidelines nearly finalized, they are expected to provide updates soon. One, however, has announced its plans. History Colorado will reopen June 22. They’ll be debuting a new exhibit called the John Denver Experience along with new safety guidelines that include advance ticket purchases and masks for all visitors over the age of 3.

Parks

Though parks have remained opened, how we’ve been enjoying Denver’s outdoor spaces has definitely changed. Playgrounds were blocked off and basketball nets removed. But now, the city has loosened some of those restrictions. Starting June 5, athletic courts began to reopen, though activities like tennis, basketball, pickleball, and playgrounds are limited to 10 people or less, and social distancing and mask wearing are still encouraged. You’re also allowed once again to use shared recreational equipment, which means tossing a frisbee or football with friends is fine. But be sure to leave the booze at home -- alcohol, including beer and wine, remains prohibited in parks through at least July 23.

Public spaces

During the stay-at-home order, outdoor activities were limited to places within 10 miles of your home. Now that we’ve moved to the phase the governor is calling “Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors,” it’s officially OK to plan that hiking or camping getaway. State parks, open spaces, and other public spaces have remained open, but now you can travel to those farther away. The new standard safety guidelines apply -- masks, keeping safe distances between parties, and not going out if you’re experiencing any symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. 

While some of Colorado’s National Parks did temporarily close to visitors, they’re all back open now, including Rocky Mountain National Park which began welcoming visitors on May 27. You are not required to have a timed entry permit or camping reservation to enter, and the park hours are currently 6am - 5pm.

Recreation 

On April 22, nearly a month after Denver’s initial stay-at-home order went into effect, we got our first taste of outdoor recreational freedom when the city gave the OK for city-operated golf courses to reopen. They remain open with their own set of new guidelines that include golf carts being limited to single riders, no provided score cards or pencils, required face masks, and fees paid by phone instead of in person. 

Now, more recreational opportunities are making a comeback. Gyms are slowly starting to reopen to groups, although they are limited to 25% capacity or 50 people per room, whichever is less. Previous drafts of the proposed guidelines were much more limited, so this version does give more leeway for larger gyms to welcome more people. While 24 Hour Fitness recently announced that they’re permanently closing 13 Front Range locations, four metro area locations are set to reopen on June 22. Some smaller studios, like Kindness Yoga, are waiting a bit longer, with their phased reopening starting July 1 at their South Broadway location. 

City-run rec centers remain closed at least through June 30, but that may be extended as they work through plans to safely meet the guidelines. 

Other recreational favorites like climbing walls and bowling alleys are also permitted to open under the same guidelines as other gyms. Indoor climbing favorite Übergrippen is open and accepting RSVPs for climbing times. Some bowling alleys like Bowlero in Wheat Ridge and Cherry Creek have yet to announce a reopening date, but others, like Crown Lanes, will reopen with limited capacity starting June 23.

Sign up here for our daily Denver email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Molly Martin is a Denver-based freelance writer who will be hitting up her local gym’s pool ASAP (with a reservation, of course). Follow her @mollydbu on Instagram and Twitter for more updates on food, fun, and life in the Mile High.