Some local restaurants get another lifeline in form of outdoor dining grants
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — This week the Colorado Restaurant Association provided some good news letting several local restaurants know that they would get money during a second wave of Winter Outdoor Dining Fund grants.
“It’s been a blessing. We were able to add tables, and it created more indoor space,” Sarah Gagliano said of the temporary space Sunpie’s Bistro added in late November.
Gagliano, who co-owns Sunpie’s along with brothers John and Jarrett Duty, said there were plans to turn the outdoor space that runs along the side of the building into something that could be used in the winter before applying for a grant.
To expand winter seating and to keep customers warm, Sunpie’s added three walls and a roof to cover the outdoor space. When weather conditions improve this spring, the temporary walls and roof will be removed.
Earlier this week Gov. Jared Polis, in partnership with the Colorado Restaurant Association, the Colorado Restaurant Foundation, Xcel Energy and the Xcel Energy Foundation, announced the latest round of grants.
Among the 260 Colorado restaurants, five were from Routt County, including Sunpie’s Bistro, The Barley Tap and Tavern, The Corner Slice and 8th Street Steakhouse in Steamboat as well as Wild Goose Coffee at the Granary in Hayden. The recipients got 50 % of what they requested up front, up to $2,500, and can be reimbursed up to another $2,500.
Funds can be used toward design, construction, applicable fees and supplies including tents and heaters. Grants are distributed through the Colorado Restaurant Foundation, a nonprofit that serves as the philanthropic arm of the Colorado Restaurant Association.
This is the second round of grants in the program and to date the fund has raised $2,418,305. The program has received 452 applications from 38 counties and proposed funding for 240 restaurants in 30 counties.
“In round one, we had 287 eligible applications and funded 134. Only two restaurants from Routt applied in round one, but we prioritized restaurants with 40% or more revenue loss,” said Elizabeth Kosar, deputy press secretary of the state of Colorado. “These two restaurants showed loss of 20%, so they didn’t make it into the final round. Please note that 20% revenue loss is the threshold to apply.”
Justin Keys, who owns The Barley Tap and Tavern located at 635 Lincoln Ave., said he applied for a grant in the first round, but did not get one. He just received news this week that he has received a grant in this second round. Those funds, along with some he received through Routt County in December, have helped with the addition of new patio furniture, fire tables and outdoor heaters.
“It was a huge help,” Keys said. “I mean the amount of money we spent making the patio more comfortable including buying the furniture, and buying the fire tables and the heaters … and refilling 15 propane tanks once a week has had an impact on our bottom line.”
Keys is thankful for the help he has received, and he understands that he is not alone with the struggles COVID-19 has brought to the industry.
“You can look at it in a temporary way or you can look at it in a permanent way,” Keys said. “From what I’m seeing around town most owners have taken this as an opportunity to make their outdoor space more usable — not just for this winter, but for every winter in the future — to help all of our businesses move forward.”
Just upstairs from the Barley in Old Town Square, The Corner Slice owner Bryan Baker was also grateful to have received grant money.
Like Keys, he has already invested in making his outdoor space better with added seating and heaters.
“We were going do it regardless just because it was what we had kind of had to do to survive,” Baker said. “We wanted to offer a space for people to wait on takeout orders and now where people are actually able to sit outside and eat.”
Keeping customers comfortable is also the goal of Tammie Delaney, who owns the 750-square-foot Wild Goose Coffee at the Granary in Hayden along with her husband, Patrick. The current restrictions mean she can only have five people in the shop at one time.
The couple is working on a project to turn a vacant breezeway into space that will increase seating, and will hopefully help the business survive the pandemic.
The couple planned to use a $5,000 Hayden Economic Development Business Improvement grant to add transparent garage doors to both sides of the building and make improvement. The couple also received a $3,700 CARES Act grant through the county. The money they get from the Winter Outdoor Dining Fund grants will help cover a chunk of the project’s total $30,000 cost.
“For us to have that kind of grant funding it suddenly makes this doable,” Delaney said. “Otherwise as a small business the numbers don’t work at all, so that’s where it’s super exciting for us.”
The Delaneys have already put $16,000 into the project to meet structural engineering requirements needed to bring the building up to code and new roof panels, which were installed in December. The space still needs heating installed in order to make it available year round.
“What I am excited about is that with this grant we are not just adding a temporary fix that in half a year not be used,” Delaney said. “These improvements will definitely enhance the space and hopefully allow more feasibility in that space that otherwise we would not have been able to do … hopefully for years to come rather than just a quick fix right now.”
Most business owners who received grants are ready to look down the road, but for now they continue to feel the challenges presented by COVID-19.
“Everybody is feeling it in some way,” Baker said of the impacts of COVID-19. “Everybody’s adapted and taken on extra costs, so that I don’t think there’s any business in town you could hand money to that is not going to put it to good use. It’s been cool to see these programs pop up, and we feel very fortunate to have to be a part of that.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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For stores and restaurants in Steamboat Springs, flexibility has been the key to staying steady during the pandemic and the ensuing challenges.