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Reader: The Latest Denver Restaurant Rules Are Ridiculous!

Sam's No. 3 is back in business.
Sam's No. 3 is back in business.
Danielle Lirette
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On December 10, would-be customers of Sam's No. 3, at 1500 Curtis Street, found an unwelcome surprise on the door: a Public Notice of Order to Close from the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, announcing that the restaurant was "not compliant with Colorado's Safer at Home public health order issued on April 26, 2020." The problem? The longtime diner was allowing people to eat in an enclosed outdoor area that qualified as "indoor."

And since November 20, when Denver moved into Level Red territory, indoor dining has been prohibited.

After some fast work by the city and Sam's — and a lot of complaints from fans — Sam's No. 3 was able to reopen its downtown place (just feet away from where the Sam's empire started in 1927) on December 12 for to-go. "The state of Colorado will be revisiting our patio in the coming days to review the air flow," the restaurant noted. "We hope to be able to reopen our temporary patio soon."

Regulars welcomed the news in their comments on our Facebook posts of Sam's saga. Says Joy:

Sam's No. 3 is one of the only things keeping downtown real.

Adds Nick:

Sam's No 3 is the shit. I hope it can keep afloat.

Notes Dane:

They're not the only ones. I've seen a few fully enclosed patios and outdoor structures. I know businesses are doing their best to follow the rules that are well-meaning, but confusing and selectively enforced. The real shame is that our federal government won't pass any legislation to help small businesses. Even if small businesses were fully open, they would still be in need of assistance due to lower guest counts.

Responds Jason:

I am so confused. It is okay to eat inside a tent but not inside a restaurant? I have abided by all the rules but the latest are ridiculous!

Replies Daniel: 

I’ve been wondering this the whole time. I’ve seen some of these tents and the tents I’ve seen aren’t for individual tables, they’re tents that house a few tables... So couldn’t the virus still spread just as easily as it could inside a restaurant?

Wonders Rob:

How is it I can go shop at American Furniture Warehouse, where there’s been a documented outbreak, where hundreds of people go and touch everything, but I can’t go to a restaurant with a few dozen people? Not discrediting the severity of COVID, but if the city is going to regulate businesses over safety concerns, it should at least be consistent.

 Adds Nick: 

Hop on a plane and fly anywhere you like.... sit next to dozens of people in an enclosed metal tube. But do NOT enjoy a breakfast burrito.

You can get that burrito today, Nick...just get it to go.

The day before Sam's No. 3 was temporarily closed by the city, we'd included the longtime family joint in Eat Here, a compilation of the 100 restaurants we can't live without — and hope we don't have to. All of the places on that list are currently open for to-go and delivery, which means you can patronize one (or more) today.

See all of our Eat Here choices, and then let us know your favorite restaurants. What places would you hate to see go? Post a comment or email editorial@westword.com.

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