Food News

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Denver's Restaurant Industry

If you plan on hitting a festival or restaurant during the coronavirus outbreak, be smart and safe.
If you plan on hitting a festival or restaurant during the coronavirus outbreak, be smart and safe. Danielle Lirette
At a time when coronavirus concerns have made "social distancing" a catchphrase, Denver's restaurants are feeling the effects of customers choosing to stay home. Chefs and restaurant owners are reporting that numbers have dropped in the past week, and some are wondering if closing temporarily or switching to delivery-only service might be a good short-term solution.

In the meantime, many restaurants are releasing statements on websites and social media pages and via email to reassure customers that they're taking every precaution to maintain clean and safe environments. TAG Restaurant Group, founded by chef/restaurateur Troy Guard, sent out this message:
TAG Restaurant Group takes all illness very seriously. In addition to our already rigorous standards of cleanliness, we have increased the frequency in which we complete our sanitation checks, throughout our restaurants. We have mandated continued daily staff training to review our health and safety procedures, and it is expected that our staff stay home if they are not feeling well. TAG Restaurant Group will continue to monitor the situation and adapt to meet any additional health regulations set forth.
The Den Corner restaurant group, which runs Sushi Den, Izakaya Den and Ototo, released this statement (along with its hygiene practices for handling incoming deliveries):
Den Corner has always worked closely with Denver Department of Health to provide hygiene training and practices, and maintains an excellent standing.

To elevate operational standards, and support all current practices, management holds a daily wellness  meeting, where employees review the personal hygiene manual and wellness plan.

All employees are given a checklist regarding current health. For any employees who have traveled or showing symptoms, appropriate compensation is provided for quarantine and/or sick leave.
The Fort Restaurant has installed fourteen hand-sanitizing stations throughout the restaurant for guests and employees, and the staff is wiping down all service materials (including menus, salt and pepper shakers, tables, chairs and electronic guest-check devices) with sanitizer spray.

The Colorado Restaurant Association and EatDenver have both released guidelines and recommendations to their member restaurants with specifics including (but not limited to) the most effective cleaning solutions and developing employee illness procedures.

Some of the people hardest hit during crises like this are low-wage earners, so the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has issued rules for paying employees awaiting COVID-19 test results for up to 32 hours of sick leave. While the initial statement during Governor Jared Polis's state-of-emergency announcement on Wednesday, March 10, caused some confusion (especially about full-time versus part-time employees), the rules were clarified on March 11, and include the following:
Workers are covered regardless of pay rate or method (hourly, weekly, piece rate, etc.); the daily pay during leave is either their established daily rate or, if their pay fluctuates, their average daily pay for the past month.
Here at Westword, we'll continue to report on restaurant openings and upcoming food and drink events; when we hear of cancellations, we'll update those posts. Still, you should check to see if an event is still happening before you head out. If an event is still on but you decide to stay home, check on refund policies. As always, remember to be considerate about canceling restaurant reservations.

Above all, be smart and stay safe. Get your information from reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization (instead of your neighbor's opinion on or the latest prepper rant on Facebook).
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation