The city is working on plans to help local restaurants currently operating outdoors to stay open once the weather starts getting cold and wet.
Earlier this month, city officials met with two-dozen local restaurant owners by phone, Economic Development Manager Eric Duyshart told the City Council’s EDtech (Economic Development and Technology) Committee on Tuesday.
City Manager Steve Mermell as well as the leaders of several departments, including fire, planning, and public works, were in on the call.
“[There’s] kind of a heightened concern that even though the weather may be fine now, with the cold weather and rain, they are going to have to pivot to some other sort of arrangement,” Duyshart said. “We’ve had a direct line of communication with them and our Fire Department. Heaters were at one point a concern and how close they can be to the tents.”
Duyshart called the call positive.
“I think the dialogue has been open and it’s going very well,” Duyshart said.
In July, the city announced partial street closures on Colorado Boulevard to begin on-street dining which allows local restaurants to do business on sidewalks and in repurposed parking spaces while keeping dining rooms closed in order to remain in compliance with the state’s efforts to combat the pandemic.
“The city must provide to business communities clear guidelines in order for businesses to be able to operate outdoors as the weather changes,” said Councilmember Victor Gordo, chair of the EDTech Committee. “Businesses are looking to buy equipment, such as heaters and other equipment, that will allow them to continue to operate in the fall and winter.”
Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton questioned whether the city was allowing restaurant owners to be creative.
“Our restaurateurs and business owners know how to run their businesses, and sometimes the bureaucracy of government actually kind of gets in the way,” Hampton said. “We should have a plan that is at least some kind of guideline.”
The restaurant sector is among the hardest-hit industries by the coronavirus. Several local restaurants have already closed.
Moody’s Investors Service said it expects operating profit to decline by more than 30 percent this year because of restrictions due to the coronavirus, most notably closures of dining rooms and continuing restrictions on capacity. But the service expects profits to rebound by about 15 percent by next year.
“We are sympathetic to the challenge that is coming up with the weather changing and the inability for us to guarantee when dining can occur back into the restaurant,” Duyshart said.
According to the National Weather Service, there is a 10 percent chance of rain on Saturday.