As Gov. Polis orders a stop to dine-in service, Garfield County restaurants look to takeout, delivery amid COVID-19

Ming's Cafe employee Ida Dewi packs a to-go order at the restaurant in downtown Glenwood. Ming's is offering a new delivery service in response to COVID-19.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Gov. Jared Polis ordered restaurants statewide to close dine-in services effective immediately Monday to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, though they can still serve takeout and offer delivery.

“These steps are very painful for our state. And while they may be an inconvenience to you if you’re a customer, imagine how difficult they are for the workers and the owners of those facilities,” Polis said in a press conference Monday evening.

Many food service businesses could struggle to remain viable, and workers could lose their jobs, Polis said. But, he said he was acting out of concern for the public health of the state.

His order lasts 30 days, but could be revised.

Since the goal is to reduce the duration and severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, Polis said, the state can’t be “penny wise and pound foolish.”

“If you tried to squeeze a few more days or week of business into bars or clubs, you’d be looking at a much longer absolute closure, and more drastic measures, as a result of the lack of foresight that we hope we’re showing by taking these actions today,” Polis said in a press conference.

While Colorado has 131 confirmed cases, that figure is certainly much higher, Polis said.

Polis also said resort communities, particularly Summit, Pitkin, Eagle and Gunnison counties, have higher rates of infection.

“The best estimate from our state epidemiologists and others is that we have thousands of cases in Colorado today, with a preponderance and a higher percentage with a connection to the high country,” Polis said.

Local restaurants are scrambling to adapt as more and more people stay home, and the federal government advises not gathering in groups over 10 people.

Summit County and Denver preceded the governor’s order by ordering restaurants to stop dine-in services. People can still get takeout and delivery.

The federal government advised people Monday to avoid gathering in groups larger than 10 — which virtually precludes dining out.    

Many restaurants in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale had already begun shifting to takeout and offering delivery.

Ming’s Café in Glenwood Springs started delivery on Saturday, and filled eight orders in the first evening.

“We were pretty happy with that for our first night,” said manager Amy Sullivan.

White House Pizza in Carbondale is also looking at delivery and has seen an increase in takeout orders.

But oddly enough, lunch traffic over the weekend actually increased at the pizzeria.

“I think right now most of the business we’re getting are people stuck in their (vacation rental homes) without skiing or anything to do, so they’re going out to lunch. Our lunch has actually been better than normal, and dinners are way down,” said Jacob Behlow, general manager for White House.

The major concerns for restaurants, even if they start delivery, is paying the bills and supporting wait staff.

Most restaurants simply aren’t in a position to offer paid leave to any employees.

“Obviously, it’s hard on my business, but I’m really worried about my staff,” said Patrice Fuller, co-owner of Carbondale BeerWorks.

Fuller said she’s watching Seattle, which also ordered restaurants to close Monday.

“I’ve been following because I know a lot of bar and restaurant owners up there. They’re really suffering,” Fuller said.

“It’s hard to ride it out without any cash coming in, because you still have to pay your bills,” Fuller said.

Beerworks is also looking at delivery as an option, and fills takeout orders.

But despite the added takeout or delivery revenue, managers are concerned about losing staff who might not be able to weather the strain of lost work.

Even Sullivan is worried about making ends meet during the pandemic.

“Should my finances not be able to recover from this, unfortunately I would have to move back to Florida. So, it’s definitely a concern for us that staff members would have to take alternative measures just to live,” Sullivan said.

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