Tough times ahead for local restaurants as COVID-19 closes doors of dining establishments |

Tough times ahead for local restaurants as COVID-19 closes doors of dining establishments

A sign at The Barley Tap & Tavern on Monday evening lets customers know the bar will be closed for the next 30 days, at the very least. The closure came after Gov. Jared Polis announced Monday that the state was issuing a public health order to close bars, restaurants and other public establishments to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Taco Cabo owner Kent Hall was hard at work Monday afternoon as Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced he was issuing a public order closing dine-in services at restaurants and bars throughout the state for at least 30 days to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“I guess you got to do, what you got to do,” Hall said by phone Monday. “We will do our best to focus on takeout and delivery and may change our menu up to highlight some of the items that are better suited for takeout.”

The order goes into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday, March 17. Restaurants would still be allowed to serve food by delivery, drive-through or carryout. After 30 days, the closure will be reevaluated.

With nearly 80% of his customers wanting a table inside his recently updated restaurant on Yampa Street or on the deck outside overlooking the Yampa River, Hall admits it’s going to be a tough 30 days — at the very least. He said it will also be hard to lose liquor sales during that time.

“It actually couldn’t have happened at a better time — with mud season,” Hall said.

But that doesn’t mean having to close in-restaurant dining won’t hurt. Hall said last weekend’s sunny, spring-like weather had his deck packed, and Monday was good as well. He just hopes the warm weather continues, and his customers continue to stop by and pick up food they can enjoy in a nearby park or a spot overlooking the river.

Just down the street, Phil Armstrong, who owns Aurum, Table 79 and The Periodic Table in Steamboat Springs and Aurum in Breckenridge, wasn’t surprised by the news of the governor’s directive.

“I knew it was coming,” Armstrong said. “But that didn’t make it any less painful.”

Armstrong said The Periodic Table and Aurum Breckenridge closed Saturday evening. The local restaurant owner already had plans to close his other two Steamboat restaurants Tuesday.

“You could see the writing on the wall,” Armstrong added.

More information

The public health order, officially issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, closes restaurants, brewpubs, breweries, microbreweries, distillery pubs, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, public bars, taverns, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, gyms, gymnasiums, theaters, casinos, movie and performance theaters, opera houses, concert halls and music halls and other places offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption.

It does not apply to grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, pharmacies, drug stores, food pantries, room service in hotels, health care facilities, residential care facilities or airport concessionaires.

Establishments may allow up to five members of the public at one time on the premises for the purpose of picking up their food or beverage orders, so long as those individuals are at least 6 feet apart from one another.

He plans to shift to a more takeout-friendly menu, featuring foods from the Periodic Table, Table 79 and Aurum as early as Wednesday. He said from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, customers can call and order from the new menu that will also feature some comfort foods, like fried chicken and burgers. Armstrong is hoping to make enough during the statewide closure to keep many of his salaried employees working and have enough to reopen his doors when the time comes.

“It’s not that I disagree with the decision,” Armstrong said. “But that doesn’t make it any easier. … This is really rough.”

Armstrong said he isn’t sure what to expect in the coming months, but he said it won’t be easy, especially because restaurants run on really tight margins. He doesn’t know that every restaurant will survive.

What makes it even tougher is that the forced closure means many of his 100 employees will be out of work. He said he plans to do his best to keep the salaried employees working, but he knows it will be difficult especially if the suspension lasts more than 30 days.

Steamboat is home to about 110 to 120 restaurants, including fast food establishments, according to Steamboat Springs Chamber CEO Kara Stoller.

Statewide, there are over 12,000 bars and restaurants employing about 240,000 people.

“Now more than ever, we need to find ways to safely support local businesses and take care of fellow residents,” Stoller said. “Order takeout. Buy gift cards. As much as you can and as safely as you can, buy local.

“Also, remember that many people will be unable to work,” Stoller added. “If you have the means, donate to established local nonprofits. They are best suited to get support to those in need in a health-conscious manner. We are a strong and resilient community. We will get through this together.”

COVID-19: Follow our coverage

Before immediately heading to the hospital, people who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 have several resources, including:

  • The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is providing a phone line to answer questions from the public about COVID-19. Call CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 877-462-2911 or email for answers in English and Spanish, Mandarin and more.
  • UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center offers Ask-A-Nurse, a 24/7 call line staffed by registered nurses who can assess symptoms and provide advice on seeking care. In Routt County, Ask-A-Nurse can be reached by calling 970-871-7878.
  • Virtual Visits can be done from the comfort of your home and only require a computer or tablet with a working webcam, speakers and microphone, or a smartphone.
  • If patients are experiencing severe symptoms or having difficulty breathing, they should visit the hospital’s emergency department.

Take precautions in everyday life:

  • Frequently and thoroughly wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, or use your inner elbow or sleeve.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home if you’re sick and keep your children home if they are sick.
  • Clean surfaces in your home and personal items such as cell phones, using regular household products.
  • Be calm but be prepared.
  • Employees at businesses and customers ​are required to wear a mask, according to a statewide public health order.
  • Limit distance between non-household members to 6 feet when indoors and outdoors.
  • The maximum group size for indoor activities is 10.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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