Permanent expansion prompted by COVID-19 will offer customers more room at Salt & Lime |

Permanent expansion prompted by COVID-19 will offer customers more room at Salt & Lime

Owner Rex Brice said he will be expanding the dining room space at Salt & Lime this fall with hopes of doubling its capacity by Christmas. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s going to be a busy month for Rex’s Family of Restaurants as owner Rex Brice as two of his downtown offerings will be making changes to provide more elbow room for customers in the time of tightening COVID-19 restrictions.

“We did not have any plans of expanding, but COVID pushed us to expand that space,” Brice said Friday. “We would not have put this much energy into it, the way we are, if we were not looking at a long-term benefit to the company. But COVID was certainly the catalyst.”

Salt & Lime, which was opened by Rex’s in 2015, plans to make a thru-passage between the current location and the space that formerly housed Artisan’s Market, which closed at the end of October.

Brice said he would keep the former entrance of Artisan’s Market with plans to use that as an exit, reducing the exposure his guests might have when entering or exiting the building.

“Our hope is to is to create a very simple open dining room space that we can really succeed in social distancing before Christmas,” Brice said. “Then at some later date finishing off the space to turn it into a real asset for Salt & Lime. But for this winter, we just need a place for people to sit.”

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He said the addition of the space means about 2,000 more square feet for the downtown restaurant, a move that will double its existing dining space. The total square footage, including storage and the kitchen, is in the neighborhood of 5,000 square feet not counting the basement or the rooftop patio.

The restaurant uses the patio in the warmer months, but Brice said he has no plans to keep the space open through the winter.

“We really just established that for the safety and comfort of our guests a tent was not a viable option at any of our restaurants,” Brice said.

Just down the road at Rex’s restaurants Creekside Cafe and Laundry Kitchen & Cocktails, Brice said changes will be made to create a more usable space.

“We are doing a similar thing there where we’re creating a pass-through between those two dining rooms to better space out our guests and create a safe environment for people to dine indoors in the wintertime,” he said.

Creekside will use Laundry’s dining room for breakfast and lunch. In the evening Laundry will take back its dining area and use the space inside Creekside, as well.

“We are investing some capital and making these changes not really knowing exactly what the winter will hold. As a restaurant community, we’re more prepared now than we were in the spring for whatever comes our way,” Brice said. “Everybody’s more informed and ready to evolve, I believe.”

The need for more space could become more pressing in the next few weeks as a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases has the potential to push Routt County into the most restrictive level of the state’s Safer at Home plan. That means reduced capacity at many businesses including noncritical retail, manufacturing and restaurants.

“I hate to see that we’re headed in that direction so early in the season, but we certainly are,” Brice said. “I think as a community, if we want to keep our people employed and working and moving forward, that we all really do need to do our part, now, over the next month, to socially distance and to pay close attention to those small gatherings in people’s homes. And try and create an environment where we can be open at 50% capacity for Christmas and in the winter season.”

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