DENVER (CBS4) - Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday announced a new effort by the state and various organizations to help restaurants survive the COVID-19 pandemic by creating innovative ways to serve diners outside during the winter. The partnership comes on the same day Colorado went above the 5 percent three-day positivity rate, which the World Health Organization says is the maximum rate of infection before governments should consider closures.
"We want Colorado's restaurant industry to bounce back, to be resilient," Polis said at the news conference. "The health of our restaurant industry is essential to our state's recovery into our way of life."
The Colorado Restaurant Association reports that 65 percent of restaurants will close within six months if nothing changes. The organization announced it's working with groups made up of architects and engineers to design and build low-cost and quick options for outdoor dining.
Polis also encouraged the public to continue supporting restaurants from home or picking up orders during the rise of cases. He said keeping the positivity rate low is another way to encourage people to go out and eat, helping them feel safe.
"I'd like to also remind the public how important local restaurants are to our communities," said Sonia Riggs, the president and CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association. "They are what makes our town and neighborhood feel like our town and neighborhood."
Beast + Bottle and Coperta restaurants co-owner Aileen Reilly joined the news conference to share the story of her family business. She explained that they are down 45 percent in sales because of the pandemic. They had to close initially in March and then eventually reopened with outdoor seating as well as takeout and delivery options. She says even in the summer, outdoor seating has been a challenge.
"We've built communities in both of the restaurants that we feel grateful to serve, even during this challenging time," she said. "A big part of our community are our local farmers and ranchers who supply our restaurants and drive our menus."
Reilly added that there is an upfront cost to expanding patios or building shelters to seat people outdoors. The weather hasn't always cooperated in the past few months and the winter will only make it more difficult. The new effort announced by the state will including funding for restaurants to help with these expenses. Xcel Energy and the Xcel Energy Foundation announced a $500,000 donation at the news conference. They pledged to match up to $250,000 from other donations.
A virtual workshop is scheduled for Monday to bring together the restaurant industry as well as the architects and engineers to discuss ways to design and build these concepts for dining outdoors in the months ahead.
"The entire restaurant community is facing an uphill battle as we move into this next season," Reilly said. "We continue to ask the neighbors, and community to support us to this next chapter."
for more features.