Restaurant closure order latest blow to Aspen life; some plan to keep take-out and delivery option
The Aspen Times
DELIVERING A MESSAGE
Hey Aspen, Snowmass and Basalt restaurant owners: Are you staying opening and offering pick up or delivery service during the governor’s 30-day order? If so, send us your plans as we compile a list of eateries that are staying open. We will be posting the list online at aspentimes.com and we will run in The Aspen Times on select days. Email your location, times of operation and service plans to reporter Rick Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It took a governor’s order Monday to shut down what had become a shrinking number of Aspen restaurants with dine-in service, another blow to the local economy as fallout from the global coronavirus crisis continued.
“At this time I find it necessary to implement emergency measures to close down all bars, restaurants, theaters, gymnasiums and casinos in Colorado in an effort to protect and preserve the public health,” read Gov. Jared Polis’ statewide public health order, which takes effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday and is effective for 30 days.
Restaurants and bars are allowed to provide take-out service while the order is in effect.
Multiple downtown restaurants already had closed by the time Polis delivered his order at a 4 p.m. news conference.
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From such corporate names as Starbucks to the locally owned New York Pizza and Campo de Fiori, a number of food-service establishments in downtown Aspen already had called it a season because of the coronavirus and pleas from public health officials to engage in social distancing to stem the disease’s spread.
Yet, some restaurants remained open where folks were either bellied up to the bar or seated at the tables early Monday evening.
“This is our last night,” Red Onion server Mikey Wechsler said between taking orders. “We already had a company email stating that we would not be open before his (Polis’) announcement, so now it’s a moot point.”
The White House Tavern’s patio was its usual busy self around 5:30 p.m., its tables filled with diners. That will be a scene of the past until at least mid-April, but the restaurant will keep its take-out service going.
“We want to be there for the community as much as we can,” said Avery Colgan, general manager.
Food-delivery service A La Car planned to remain open as long as its participating restaurants were taking pick-up orders, said owner Tom Engelman. A La Car can be reached at 970-544-3663 and orders also can be placed at orderfoodaspen.com.
With $17.3 million in sales, Aspen’s restaurant and bar industry accounted for 18% of all retail sales here in January, according to a report issued by the city’s Finance Department on Friday. For all of 2019, the industry recorded $138.9 million in sales in Aspen.
In Snowmass, a few restaurant owners said they weren’t surprised by Polis’ order.
“We could see it coming with everything that’s happening, we just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly,” Christine Newcomb, co-owner of Big Hoss Grill on the Village Mall, said Monday night. “But I guess that’s how everything seems to be unfolding.”
Newcomb said the grill will shut down all of its operations until early June and while it is unfortunate her employees are out of work a month early, she understands why the governor’s order is necessary.
“There’s a lot of extra food everyone is taking home, so we’re really taking care of each other,” Newcomb said. “Hopefully we can look back on this and say, ‘It’s not as serious as it could have been,’ instead of saying, ‘Wow, that was bad, we should have done more.’”
But while some restaurants like Big Hoss are shutting down, others like Taster’s Pizza at the Snowmass Center will stay open and operate as carry out and all-day delivery only.
Heather Huber and Stacy Forster, managing partners of Taster’s, said they plan to stay open until they are ordered to shut down and may even extend their delivery service to Aspen.
“It’s cheesy to say, but we do love this community and think it’s important to keep some normalcy,” Huber said. “People need food so we plan to keep going as long as we’re allowed to.”
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Aspen residents, workers up and down the valley and area businesses could benefit from the city of Aspen’s recently passed $5 million emergency relief and economic stimulus package.