DENVER -- Carryout orders and outdoor seating doesn't seem to be enough to make ends meet for many Denver-area restaurants.
"This past weekend was the slowest weekend we’ve ever had in our 15 years of being open," said Stephanie Bonin, owner of Duo Restaurant in Denver's LoHi neighborhood.
That dramatic slump in sales is an indication of the current business climate for an industry that's been pushed to the brink time and time again since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Bonin knows she's not alone — she's been talking with other friends in the restaurant industry, and in some ways, they feel like it's March all over again.
"It doesn’t work, it’s doesn’t pan out. We’re just in survival mode," said Bobby Stuckey, a founder of Frasca Hospitality Group.
Denver restaurants say they are feeling the effects from new restrictions that went into effect on Nov. 20. On that date, indoor dining was suspended and last call moved to 8:00 p.m. because of the move to Safer at Home Level Red.
Stuckey's group owns four restaurants including Tavernetta, where they went from having 130 seats plus a bar to five tables located in outdoor greenhouses.
"Every two weeks is a payroll cycle and restaurants are closing across the country every two weeks at a rapid rate," said Stuckey.
As part of his work with the Independent Restaurant Coalition, Stuckey said a recent survey shows up to 85% of independent restaurants could permanently close if Congress does not pass a relief package. Additional information is available at saveourrestaurants.com.
"It needs to happen now, it cannot wait until the new Congress, Senate and President come in," said Stuckey.
The restaurant industry is battling a complicated web of restrictions that seems to be constantly changing. When the last call was changed yet again, the move devastated business at High Point Creamery's location in the Denver Central Market.
"My busiest hours of my business, which are from 7:30 p.m. until 10 p.m., have disappeared here," said Erika Thomas, the owner of High Point Creamery.
Thomas said the worst part is there seems to be no end in sight.
"We’re exhausted. I mean, we’ve been playing pivot and catch up and innovating for nine months now and we’re just tired. But on top of that, when you close us down again and it’s in winter, it’s such a scarier time for us," said Thomas.