Restaurants report increasing business and share new changes as reopening process begins |

Restaurants report increasing business and share new changes as reopening process begins

Aldo Banchez, a chef at the Arapahoe Cafe & Pub in Dillon, wears a face mask while preparing food on Sunday, May 31. Colorado restaurants were allowed to reopen to the public this past Wednesday, and must now adhere to strict health safety and social distancing regulations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jason Connolly /

DILLON — Restaurants across the state were allowed to open at 50% capacity on Wednesday, May 27, in a step toward the reopening process after the full COVID-19 shutdown. Dining establishments throughout Summit County opened their patios and half of their restaurants to guests. While there were some visitors, patrons were mostly cooped-up locals eager to dine-in at their favorite restaurants. 

Castaways Cove Kitchen Manager Kaleb Anderson said that most of the people who came to the restaurant’s reopening day Thursday were those who have routinely supported the restaurant prior to and during the shutdown. Anderson said that hopefully the reopening of hotels will drum up more business as well since this has been a draw for local restaurants in the past. 

Despite the new protocols in place, Anderson said things around the restaurant aren’t “too terribly different” aside from that the restaurant is spending more money on gloves, Anderson joked, and taking the time to come up with new recipes. He said Castaways Cove currently has about 75% of its original staff and will eventually bring everyone back.

Arapahoe Cafe & Pub also opened on Thursday.

“It was pretty good, a little quiet, but we saw a lot of our regulars that came back for the first day which was great to see,” owner Bonnie Lehman said.

Like other restaurants that are currently reopening, Arapahoe Cafe has posted their new protocols and guest requirements on their website, which include the requirement that guests wear masks upon entering the restaurant or patio and that “everything a customer might have touched will be sanitized after every use.”

Brandon Ciullo, center, takes and order of food from Cathy Harringan at the Arapahoe Cafe & Pub in Dillon on Sunday, May 31, while Dani Waring, right, and other family members wait to place theirs.
Jason Connolly /

The cafe has a patio that allows for 6 feet of distancing between tables and has been preferred by guests — both for comfort during the pandemic as well as in the wake of warm spring weather. Lehman said it is an adjustment to have tables in the dining room and the pub 6 feet apart as employees are used to having a packed restaurant, but that the restaurant is always under strict protocols from the health department, making additional sanitation efforts fairly easy to work in. 

“It’s actually been an easier adjustment than we kind of thought it would be,” Lehman said. “I think the biggest thing is the employees adjusting to wearing a mask the whole shift … but outside of that, the sanitation policies we put in place have been fairly easy to kind of just work into our normal routines of being at work, so that’s been pretty easy.”

Lehman said a timer goes off every 30 minutes reminding employees to perform their recurring sanitation duties, such as sanitizing bathrooms, point-of-sale systems and other commonly touched spaces, surfaces and objects. Lehman also noted that the restaurant has seen a mix of locals and visitors who are up for the day or who are camping over the course of the first few days of being open. Lehman said she expects to see more visitors once hotels open. The restaurant is still seeing a fair amount of to-go orders as well. 

As for filling the restaurant to capacity, Lehman said Arapahoe Cafe will reach their 50% limit during certain rushes, such as dinnertime in the pub, but that people clear out after the rush. 

“We’re just waiting for the next wave of reopenings, if we can open to 75% … but until then we’re just happy to have customers in the building,” Lehman said. 

Lehman said she was able to bring back all of her winter staff and is preparing to bring on more staff for the summer as is the restaurant’s typical strategy. 

Bonnie Lehman, owner of the Arapahoe Cafe & Pub in Dillon, carries a plate of food to customers seated at the outdoor patio on Sunday, May 31.
Jason Connolly /

Columbine Cafe opened its doors right away on Wednesday. Owner Robert Simonton said business is “gradually picking up” as the days go on and compared the current state of the cafe to that of past mud seasons. Simonton said he has had mainly locals come in so far to eat at physically distanced tables set up inside and four tables outside. 

While outside tables have filled up, Simonton said he has yet to fill up for both indoor and outdoor seating. Simonton said things aren’t too much different aside from how the inside of the restaurant looks with separating tarps set up. He echoed Lehman’s sentiment that restaurants like his already have fairly rigorous sanitation procedures in place, so amping this element up isn’t a major change. 

“Restaurants are pretty much one of the cleanest places you’ll go to,” Simonton said.

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