AURORA, Colo. -- Most of the metro area has moved up to Level Clear on the COVID dial.
That means restaurants and bars can operate at 100-percent capacity with no other requirements, except for masks.
Owners are ecstatic.
"We opened up in February of 2020, so our timing couldn't be any better," said a chuckling Tom Klein, who with his wife, Razz Cortes-Maceda, opened up Carm & Gia Metropolitan at 9598 East Montview, in February of 2020.
"It's been a very challenging year, and we've had a lot of great support from the city of Aurora, and our great customers, and we made it through," Klein said. "We're still standing, and we're looking forward to a great 2021."
"Gosh darn it, it's been an emotional roller coaster," Cortes-Maceda said, "a white knuckle ride. Some days have been really great. Our customer base has really supported us, but there have been some days that have been pretty bleak."
Count Will Oliver among the loyal customers.
"This is the only place we can come and get an authentic Chicago dog," Oliver said. "We love this place. We come here all the time."
Both Cortes-Maceda and Klein are ecstatic about ramping up to 100-percent capacity, which is not as easy as it sounds.
"We have our furniture in storage, so we have to go fetch it, and schedule time to go get the rest of our furniture," Cortes-Maceda said.
She also said they're dealing with additional challenges -- food supply shortages and higher prices.
"Every day we're like, where can I source this, where can I source that? Because everyone is opening up, which is good, but it is proving to be a little bit difficult to balance all of that," she said.
When asked if they will require customers to continue wearing masks as they enter the restaurant, Klein replied, "We'll welcome anybody with a mask, or without a mask, and we have masks here if they need one."
At Stanley Marketplace, Charlene Thai, owner of Qi-Lin, an Asian Cuisine restaurant, said she too is excited about the ramp up to Level Clear, but is mindful of the challenges.
"An issue that we're facing is the cost," she said. "It went up quite a bit. Not a shortage of supply, but the cost. We are paying more for our shipments. >> For paper products? >> For everything."
Ms. Thai mentioned the ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal. She said there were restaurant supplies on board, and that the supply chain shortage is putting pressure on restaurant bottom lines.
She told Denver7 that starting today (Sunday) customers no longer have to wear masks.
"They're allowed to enter here, and we are very comfortable with that," she said, "but my workers and staff, most of whom are vaccinated, are still required to work with masks on."
The more people head out to their favorite restaurants to eat, the more work needs to be done in restaurant kitchens and dining rooms.
Help wanted signs began appearing on South Broadway and in the LoDo area of Denver just before opening day, as crowds began flocking to those entertainment zones.
They'd rather face that challenge than the financial challenges of the pandemic.