Don't misunderstand: Lee Hayward enjoys a night out as much as the next guy -- maybe more, since he and his wife, Kathy, wrote the book Drinking and Driving in Colorado, recently re-released as the more tastefully named Tapping Colorado Craft Beer: A Guide to Centennial State Brewpubs. But looking at the crowds packing into local eateries for this seventh edition of Denver Restaurant Week got him thinking.
"It is a great event for Denverites who enjoy eating out; $52.80 for a meal for two at some of Denver's finest restaurants is a possibility for many of us," he says. "However, next time you are enjoying yourself, look outside the window for a minute and think about our neighbors to whom $52.80 might mean their whole week's grocery budget....
"So I'm issuing a challenge!" he says. "For every $52.80 you spend during Denver Restaurant Week, donate $52.80 to the Food Bank of the Rockies, Denver Urban Ministries, Meals on Wheels, or any one of the many different charities in our area that are helping our neighbors through these times. I will be doing this, and challenge everyone in Denver to enjoy Denver Restaurant Week if you can -- and double your pleasure by helping our neighbors."
Wisely, Hayward is encouraging donations from diners who're enjoying the delicious benefits, rather than from the restaurants themselves. Chefs and restaurateurs are already some of the most generous people in town, donating time, services and meals to innumerable causes. And while many of the 300 eateries participating in Denver Restaurant Week are very busy, most also see their average check drop.
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DRW has had the same price point for seven years, and for a restaurant "there's no way for there to be any real money," says Rich Grant, spokesman for Visit Denver, which produces DRW. "It's a marketing promotion. When a department store has a 30 percent off sale, no one suggests it give a portion of what's left to charity."
But that doesn't mean that diners can't do what Hayward suggests: donate $52.80 to a charity for every Denver Restaurant Week deal they enjoy.
Or they can follow Grant's advice: "They should be kind to their server. And if they've got an extra $52.80, they can go out and eat again...Denver Restaurant Week supports a lot of people, and makes the city better."