Sam's No. 3 received an early Christmas lump of coal from the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment on December 10, in the form of a placard on the front door closing down the diner because of supposed violations of COVID-related outdoor seating. That seating was on a temporary enclosed patio that the restaurant says was adequately ventilated — but the city disagreed after seeing customers dining at two tables in the area.
The closure didn't last long, though. Sam Armatas, co-owner and grandson of the Sam Armatas who opened the original Sam's No. 3 in 1927, says he has been working with the health department all day to come to an agreement that would allow his restaurant to reopen. And the department listened; here's the statement they sent us at 3:19 p.m. December 11:
Sam’s #3 is working with DDPHE to come into compliance with the state’s requirements for outdoor dining. The restaurant is currently open for takeout and delivery. DDPHE appreciates Sam’s #3’s ongoing diligence and efforts to comply with public health requirements to protect their patrons. Sam’s #3 is being proactive, responsive, and keeping in close communication with our department.
Sam's No. 3 sent its own message to clarify its position:
Out of respect for our guests, the state and local governments, Sam’s No. 3 is now and has always been in full compliance with the ever changing rules. Yesterday, our permitted and paid for enclosed outdoor patio at our Downtown Sam’s No. 3 location was deemed permanent. This is incorrect. We pay yearly fees to have this sidewalk encroachment and have done so since 2013. It is a space that if the city deems it wants access to again we must remove our revocable permit and structure within 7 days. That is what defines this structure as temporary. This is not a permanent structure and was built to be removed if necessary by the city. At the time of closure there were two non adjacent openings providing airflow through this revocable patio then and always during guests visits.
As of 1:30 p.m. today we were in communication with Denver Public Health & Environment, and through mutual cooperation, we have gone through the mitigation process and are being allowed to reopen on Saturday [the DPHE says today] for takeout and delivery. DPHE did acknowledge that our patio is a temporary structure. The state of Colorado will be revisiting our patio in the coming days to review the air flow. We hope to be able to reopen our temporary patio soon.
Thank you for all your kind words and support.
Sam’s No. 3 Family.
So while you still can't grab a seat for an omelet or green chile at 1500 Curtis Street, where Sam's No. 3 has been located since 2003, you can swing by and grab your favorite breakfast or burger to go — and that's a bright spot in an otherwise dreary December.