Reopening At A Limited Capacity Would Still Permanently Shutter Many Colorado Restaurants, Owners Say

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Maria Espinoza works in the kitchen at Araujo’s Mexican restaurant on 26th Avenue by Federal Boulevard. April 22, 2020.

Almost a quarter of restaurant owners say they would have to close permanently within a month of reopening if dining rooms are capped at 25 percent capacity, according to a survey from the Colorado Restaurant Association.

Roughly two-thirds said they would be forced to shut down within three months, the survey found. 

If restaurants are allowed to open at 50 percent capacity, just nine percent say they would go out of business within a month, and half said they could be forced to close permanently within three months. 

Almost all operators said they would be able to survive for at least one month if dining rooms are allowed to open at 75 percent capacity. Still, about 20 percent said they might have to consider shutting down after three months.

The restaurant industry has been decimated by stay-at-home orders enacted in March to stop the spread of COVID-19. The industry remains shuttered even as other businesses — such as retailers and salons — are starting to welcome customers back. Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday that there may be more guidance on when restaurants can reopen by May 25. Last week, Polis said restaurants and bars could reopen by Memorial Day weekend.

Almost half of restaurant owners indicated they would forego dine-in service and either stay closed or continue to offer only takeout and delivery if dining room capacity is capped at 25 percent, according to the survey. Additionally, half said they wouldn’t hire back staff with just 25 percent of the dining space open. Even with dining areas running at 50 percent, about 20 percent of operators said they wouldn’t bring employees back.

A vast majority of restaurants — 87 percent — are currently getting revenue from alcohol-to-go and delivery sales, the survey found.