'Just happy to be working' as dine-in resumes in Centennial

But not all are on board with COVID-19 precautions

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When Colorado allowed restaurants to resume sit-down service statewide, that green light came with a slew of new requirements eateries had to meet — staff wearing masks, limiting the number of customers, disinfecting tables for each group and much more.

“We're actually happy to do that,” said Khiem Nguyen, owner of Crawfish Boil Co. at The Streets at SouthGlenn in Centennial. “I have family here, and my parents are No. 1.”

Nguyen's parents serve and work the kitchen in the “small mom-and-pop shop,” as Nguyen calls his restaurant. Crawfish Boil Co. has adopted scannable codes that bring up its menu on patrons' cell phones to avoid using physical menus that go from customer to customer.

Even amid all the precautions, some familiar patrons are coming back for dining in, Nguyen said June 4. Crawfish even had reservations for the weekend.

The situation has been similar for Indulge Bistro and Wine Bar, just down the block from Crawfish in SouthGlenn. Indulge re-opened up the week before — as soon as it could — to a warm reception by patrons, said Trevor Nelsen, bartender and manager.

“People were excited to be back at restaurants,” Nelsen said. “On the patio, we got rained on and people didn't even care.”

Business isn't all back to normal — five patrons is the largest group Nelsen had seen so far — but the reduced crowd size and precautions were no worry for him.

“A lot of us are just happy to be working, so whatever we have to do” is OK, Nelsen said.

Erik Forrester, 39, a regular at Crawfish, thinks people missed the social interaction at restaurants.

“We work really hard to enjoy things in life,” said Forrester, a Centennial resident. He thinks the public missed getting out of the house into an environment like a restaurant “where there's great service,” he added.

Dispute on masks

The state's new requirements for restaurants, released in late May, require employees to wear masks or face coverings.

But Waters Edge Winery and Bistro, across East Arapahoe Road from SouthGlenn, said in a Facebook post in late May that the restaurant would not require masks.

“If you are uncomfortable with our team not wearing them, we are happy to provide wine and food to go, just call ahead for curbside pick-up!” the restaurant wrote.

Owner Jennifer Hulan said an article shared with her by her doctor suggested that masks are potentially dangerous to restaurant waitstaff. Hulan also cited the World Health Organization's guidance on masks, which in recent months has not offered a full-throated recommendation of their use.

“Non-medical, fabric masks are being used by many people in public areas, but there has been limited evidence on their effectiveness and WHO does not recommend their widespread use among the public for control of COVID-19,” the WHO's website says. It adds: “If there is widespread community transmission, and especially in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained, governments should encourage the general public to wear a fabric mask.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also updated its guidance on masks in April, saying on its website: “The virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity — for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing — even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

Cloth masks have not been found to be as effective as medical masks. But they can help lower the risk of transmission by people who may not realize they are sick, according to a news release from Gov. Jared Polis' office.

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