COVID-19

'It's hard to fathom this is reality'

Parker bar and restaurant owners live with new normal

Nick Puckett
npuckett@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/24/20

Parker bar and restaurant owners are grappling with ways to attract customers in the wake of a ban to all dine-in service through April, from expanding or creating a take-out option to engaging …

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COVID-19

'It's hard to fathom this is reality'

Parker bar and restaurant owners live with new normal

Posted

Parker bar and restaurant owners are grappling with ways to attract customers in the wake of a ban to all dine-in service through April, from expanding or creating a take-out option to engaging customers through social media. All the while, the short-term impacts of extended closures has part-time service employees scrambling for ways to make ends meet.

“A lot of restaurants aren't coming out of this,” said Dale Trujillo, owner of Blu Note Bar and Grill. “It's hard to make plans. It's hard to tell your employees, look at them in the face and tell them when they say, 'Will I be back to work in 30 days?' I don't know…All I can do is try to help the people I can.”

Trujillo said his focus right now is on the well-being of his employees and how he can be of use to the community.

The spread of the novel coronavirus throughout the region and country led Gov. Jared Polis to institute the ban, beginning March 17. Polis also urged against gatherings of 10 or more people for eight weeks at the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Local businesses may be reprieved somewhat after the Small Business Association granted Colorado's request for a disaster declaration March 19, allowing businesses to apply for up to $2 million loans.

That still may not be enough to keep some businesses going if closures last much longer than a month. Throughout the state, restaurant owners are reducing employee hours or laying workers off altogether.

Tailgate Tavern owner John Jordan said his biggest worry is how long the pandemic will last. He hopes the worst of it can be controlled within three weeks. The federal government last week warned the pandemic could last 18 months. Agencies like the Douglas County School District have indefinitely closed facilities and canceled events, employing a “wait and see” mindset.

“It's surreal,” Jordan said. “It's hard to fathom this is reality.”

Jordan had stocked up on basic foods and supplies to give away to his employees picking up their paychecks. Jordan and his kitchen staff met to consider take-out options or next steps.

“We're just trying to wrap our heads around what's going on here,” Jordan said.

Yume Tran, owner of Indochine Cuisine, said it was imperative to stay positive and take it one day at a time. On the first day of the instituted ban, Tran calculated her lunch rush revenue was about one-fifth that of a usual day.

In a silver lining to an otherwise distressing time, several owners felt grateful for the immediate support of the Parker community. Many feel the community is returning the favor for the years of support the restaurants have given to local clubs and organizations.

"We're seeing a lot of our regulars in the community come out and support us. Parker is a great community for supporting buisinesses, especially restaurants and bars," said Sean Damon, manager at Hilltop Tap House. Damon has worked at Parker restaurants for 15 years. "As restaurateurs in the community, we love to give back to the community. That's what we love to do, and now we're seeing a little bit of that come back to us. It's refreshing, but it's been hard on everybody."

Ordering take-out from restaurants that offer it and tipping servers go a long way, especially now.

“We're all in the same boat,” Jordan said. “We're all in this together. We're going to get through it together and be stronger for it on the other side.”

Trujillo said he is focusing his energy on his employees. He can't help but feel worried for what this means for younger businesses.

“I've been very fortunate my staff has become more of a family. My heart breaks for these people and I'm going to do everything I can to help them,” Trujillo said. “The business will work itself out … But it's those people my heart bleeds for. I'm doing everything I can for them, and of course I can only do so much.

“I dumped my life into this bar,” Trujillo said, “but I have a belief system that I will come out on the other side, and if you do the right things that we try to do for each other, everybody will be OK.”

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