Teresa Engel opened her dream business in downtown Parker in 2012. Since then, Engel has turned Vines Wine Bar and Bistro into a staple of Parker's downtown scene. Hundreds visited the restaurant …
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Teresa Engel opened her dream business in downtown Parker in 2012. Since then, Engel has turned Vines Wine Bar and Bistro into a staple of Parker's downtown scene.
Hundreds visited the restaurant daily before the pandemic. The corner of Victorian Drive and East Mainstreet became one of the most popular places in town to gather and drink. In any other year, Vines' wraparound outdoor patio would be packed with wine drinkers almost every evening.
But Engel has not slept much the past two months. In order to keep the lights on, Vines began offering different food specials, selling $5 hamburgers and making cocktails to go. Perviously, take-out made up less than 1% of Vines' bottom line, Engel said. Starting March 17, take-out became 100% of the restaurant's revenue source. Vines has lost about 75% of its business.
“We had to look at being a different kind of place,” Engel said. “We sold more $5 burgers than we did anything else. We're not a burger joint. I had to redefine my menu to be more of a to-go menu. If I were to just say, 'That's who we are,' we would not have made it.”
Starting May 23, Douglas County bars, cafes and restaurants could allow dine-in service at limited capacity for the first time since mid-March. The state allowed in-restaurant service May 27 under similar restrictions. The milestone was cause for celebration for owners like Engel, who said Vines had its biggest Saturday and Sunday since February.
Under the new rules, dine-in customers must be spaced 6 feet apart. Managers must limit customer capacity to 50% of the restaurant's normal capacity. And all staff must wear face coverings.
Engel said though she believes some measures may be unnecessary, she will encourage customers to wear masks when not eating and is grateful to be able to open her doors again.
“People really do have each other's backs,” Engel said. “Other business owners are willing to help, and that makes a big difference.”
'It's not horrible'
Party America franchisee Cindy Kavanaugh brought employees back to her physical location, at 11177 Dransfeldt Road, on May 1 and was surprised with the foot traffic on Day One.
“Everyone's learned,” Kavanaugh said. “Everyone's got a mask, even if it's in their purse or pocket. We're all being smart about when to put it on.”
Kavanaugh said she will take extra precautions if she knows an elderly person or someone who is immunocompromised is in the store.
“It's not like usual, but it's not horrible either,” Kavanaugh said.
Kavanaugh said graduation season is one of her biggest times of year. Although graduation parties with hundreds of people — and napkins, paper plates and decorations — will not happen for the foreseeable future, Kavanaugh sold “porch kits” for $10 to get folks started on decking out their house for their graduate or birthday person.
“Birthdays aren't canceled,” Kavanaugh said. “That's what we tell everyone.”
Tailgate Tavern and the Parker Garage across the street from Vines each have lively crowds each weekend. Those crowds are usually stoked by major events like Parker Days, concerts in the park, the weekly Parker Farmer's Market and weekly Wine Walks. The farmer's market will return June 7, but the other events have been canceled to prevent spread of COVID-19.
John Jordan, owner of Tailgate Tavern, held tailgate parties over Memorial Day weekend both in and outside the restaurant. Jordan said the bar and grill set up 75 seats inside and outside. Two people are designated to make sure everyone there is social distancing.
“It's still a bit challenging,” Jordan said, “like keeping your kid contained, saying, 'Don't move from there.' It's getting hard to manage, but they're getting used to it. ... we're working on it hard.”
Restaurants have relied on their regulars for support while operating under state orders.
English Tealeaves, a tea house with retail at 18551 Mainstreet, has been open for 18 years in Parker. Manager Robin Campbell said their regular customers have helped keep them afloat.
In the past two weeks, Campbell said some customers have set up parking lot tea parties in front of their store — some going as far to dress up in Victorian garb “serving” miniature bottles of hand sanitizer.
English Tealeaves reopened for dine-in May 29 and will open on Sundays once again in about a month. Campbell said management wanted to remain in compliance with the Douglas County variance and new statewide restrictions on dine-in service.
“We are one of the ones who adapted and were able to adapt and stick with the guidelines,” Campbell said. “We want to keep our customers safe. We want our staff to be safe and we want everything to go smoothly.”
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