On the first weekend restaurants reopened their dining areas, eateries all across Grand County were filled with excited customers despite the new COVID-19 restrictions.
Earlier this week, Gov. Jared Polis announced restaurants could reopen dining areas with certain social distancing and safety precautions beginning Wednesday.
Since the doors have opened, local restaurants are reporting that many customers are eager to sit down and dine for chance at some normalcy.
“(Saturday) was really busy and actually, overall, I don’t see a huge deterrent from coming to the county right now, but (business) is definitely restricted from what it could be,” said Jonah Landy, manager of Squeaky B’s in Grand Lake. “It is busier than we expected.”
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However, business remains restricted thanks to the safety precautions required. Currently, restaurants can only seat 50% of their capacity indoors up to 50 people and outdoor dining is encouraged. Tables must be spaced six feet apart and masks are required by employees and customers not sitting at their table.
For Squeaky B’s, following the extra health measures means they are only offering outside dining for the foreseeable future.
“We will continue to do only outdoor seating just because we think that’s the safest way to go forward until restrictions allow for more seating then we’ll open up the indoor seating,” Landy said.
Granby Garage owner Jonathan Gurrola also noted it’s hard to work around the social distancing and safety restrictions for customers dining in. Right now, Granby Garage is not offering dine-in, but is allowing customers to use the tables on their patio.
“People are anxious to be able to get outside, gather, sit down and enjoy a meal … so everyone is grateful and supportive,” Gurrola said of his patrons.
Outdoor seating is definitely the more popular option for customers right now, with many patios as full as they could be while tables sat empty inside. With that in mind, The Ditch on 40 took advantage of Winter Park’s loosened seating restrictions to expand dining outside.
General Manager DJ Morrissey said the Winter Park Fraser Chamber donated their lawn space for The Ditch to set up tables on and a generous local donated extra tables to the restaurant for the expansion.
“It was kind of just like opening a brand new restaurant,” Morrissey said of all the newly implemented changes and precautions.
Like Landy and Gurrola, Morrissey said most customers are understanding of the new rules in place and just look forward to getting the chance to eat out again after months of closures.
“The guests have been really happy and we’ve served many people meals that were their first meals out (since March),” he said. “We have a very large regular local base and a lot of Denver locals as well that come here every weekend, so it’s been really nice to see familiar faces and have people that love us come back and say hi.”
Moving forward, the restaurants are looking forward to being able to open up more seating and hope to get creative in the meantime. Gurrola said he’s looking to offer dine-in by reservation to keep customer numbers limited in his small space, as well as expanding the patio at Granby Garage.
“The space I have and the restrictions we’ve got don’t work as well as we would like them to,” Gurrola said. “We’re going to try to do as much as we can.”