When asked how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected business at Breakfast Queen at 3460 S. Broadway in Englewood, owner Kosta Vasilas summarized the impact on the restaurant in three words.
“It crushed it,” he said.
Vasilas said the restaurant shut down on March 20 and stayed closed until April 23 when it reopened for carry-out orders, causing it to lose out on a month's worth of sales. Even before the pandemic, Vasilas said there were slim margins in the restaurant business already due to food costs, paying employees and rising rent.
“You're lucky to make 15% profit margin now, and that is at full capacity,” said Vasilas. "We've never been known as a to-go order restaurant."
As Breakfast Queen continues to process carry-out orders, it and other Englewood restaurants welcomed the idea that they could potentially offer dine-in-services for the first time in two months.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said May 21 that he hoped that restaurants across Colorado might be able to re-open for sit-down service as soon as the last week of May under guidelines that had not been issued yet at press time.
Under earlier draft guidelines released to the public on May 19, Colorado restaurant employees would have to wear a face covering at all times as would customers, unless they are eating or drinking. Employees would also be required to wear gloves and have their temperatures checked and logged each day.
Party sizes would be limited to six people or less, and there would have to be a minimum of 8 feet spacing between tables. Draft guidelines also would require tables to be sanitized after each customer.
Polis also has encouraged Colorado restaurants to consider expanding outside seating options for patrons.
“I'm excited about it, it's a way to get customers to come back and feel like they can travel and eat at places. Our cleanliness is already there; we just need to expand outside,” said Vasilas. “I'm more nervous for those outdoor storms that hit weekly in Colorado.”
Englewood may look at temporarily waving local zoning to encourage the use of private or public parking spaces for seating for restaurants, said Darren Hollingsworth, the city's economic development manager.
“Restaurants and lots of businesses have been hard hit, and the city is going to work vigilantly to make it easy as possible for businesses to address any requirements at the local level as quickly as we can,” he said.
Hollingsworth said the city is looking to encourage additional food truck activity.
Westword reported that a mini food truck court started serving food every Thursday, Friday and Saturday on May 21 at the Westminster City Center shopping area at Sheridan Boulevard and West 92nd Avenue. Customers can arrive in their cars, order and pay online and have their food brought out to them.
Gallo Italian Supper Club and Bake in Englewood has been looking at creative ways for when it gets the greenlight to offer dine-in-services, including the possibility of serving food drive-in style while showing a movie in its parking lot.
Vincenza Licata, co-owner of Gallo Italian Supper Club and Bake, said the restaurant would have to get its neighbors on board with that idea as it shares a parking lot with other businesses.
Other ideas Gallo has discussed include the possibility of placing barriers between tables so that customers feel safe and are only exposed to their servers.
Licata expressed concerns about having to take the temperature of her employees. She said the slightest mistake in taking temperatures can result in several people getting sick.
“(Reopening) is a double edge sword. It's wonderful that we'll have the opportunity to do that, but the whole basis of our business is our family like atmosphere,” said Licata. “We treat all (customers) like family, and it's hard to do that when you can't shake hands or see a smile from a mask — but we are moving forward with whatever the state is going to allow us to do.”
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