Food News

Restaurants Jump Into Action to Feed Community After Boulder County Fire

The Post is one of many restaurants offering free meals to those displaced by the Marshall fires.
The Post is one of many restaurants offering free meals to those displaced by the Marshall fires. Courtesy of the Post
"For restaurant people, it's been a borderline unbearable two years," says Dana Query, co-owner of the Big Red F Restaurant Group, which includes the Post, Jax Fish House, Centro Mexican Kitchen and West End Tavern. "But we've beared it, and here we are. On top of all that, to see people not even hesitate to come on board and help, it's really, really moving."

After watching the devastation in Louisville and Superior after the Marshall fire broke out on December 30, Query helped jump-start what has become Restaurants Revive, a program formed in partnership with World Central Kitchen, Conscious Alliance, the Northwest Chamber Alliance and the Downtown Boulder Partnership.

"The Colorado restaurant community in general is very connected," Query explains, "but especially Boulder, Denver and the corridor." And throughout the pandemic, a number of groups — including the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and EatDenver, a nonprofit membership organization for independently owned restaurants — have helped keep local restaurants in close communication with each other, providing essential information to businesses about current rules and resources.

The 5 Star Program, which was put into place in 2020 to give restaurants adhering to added safety measures the ability to open under lessened restrictions, also opened lines of communication with the local government. "Everything had kind of been put into place, and it was almost like we were really prepared for needing to communicate with each other and to activate very quickly because of the pandemic," Query notes.

Less than 24 hours after the fires began, nearly 250 restaurants had jumped on an email thread to brainstorm how to collectively help first responders and the over 35,000 Coloradans affected by the fires. Despite it being a particularly difficult time for the dining industry, with COVID cases surging and staffing difficulties compounded by the fact that it was a holiday, "we just started communicating," Query recalls. "It was very organic."

With networks like the CRA and EatDenver, word spread quickly, a Google Doc was created so that participating restaurants could add their names, and Query and others got organized, recruiting and coordinating efforts.

On the morning of December 31, Query was also connected with Tim Kilkoyne, director of chef operations for World Central Kitchen, which works to provide chef-prepared meals to communities impacted by natural disasters worldwide. "By the time they got into town, the restaurant community in Boulder County already had a huge jump-start. They said, 'Wow, we have rarely seen a community of restaurants act so fast,'" Query recalls. World Central Kitchen is helping to subsidize some of the meals being provided, but "most of the restaurants are doing it fully out of their pockets," she notes.

There are currently 85 restaurants and food trucks listed on the spreadsheet of participating Restaurants Revive locations, but that number is expected to grow quickly throughout the week. Many are offering free meals, most of which are provided on the honor system. There are also establishments available to do larger meal deliveries; food trucks able to do pop-ups for first responders or in neighborhoods where there are numerous people that need to be fed at once; and restaurants providing free gift cards.

"We're doing it week by week right now," Query says. "When we get through this week, we'll figure out how it's working and poll the restaurants, and hopefully people will extend for another week."

As the hospitality industry continues to struggle with new challenges, Restaurants Revive is another reminder that these places are more than just businesses; they are community pillars. "Restaurants are bleeding money right now," Query notes, "and yet everybody just dropped what they were doing to do this."
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin