Covid-19 continues to claim Boulder small businesses, more in jeopardy

Covid-19 is hitting Boulder small businesses hard

By Tatyana Sharpton Sep 17 2020

With the unforeseen pandemic wiping out millions of jobs nationally and catalyzing the biggest unemployment peak since the Great Depression, many small Boulder businesses have taken the fall — permanently.

From restaurants such as Riffs Urban Fare, the well-known Walnut Restaurant Group, which ran The Med, Brasserie Ten Ten and Via Perla to stand-out brewpubs like BRU Handbuilt Ales & Eats and Boulder’s new stand-up comedy spot Laugh-Lines Comedy Club, local businesses have succumbed to the intense economic pressures Covid-19 creates.

We created a Boulder Covid-19 Business Obituary last month of businesses lost due to the coronavirus and now follow up with a deeper dive into some of these economic impacts.

John Tayer

“Each and every individual business closing due to Covid is a personal tragedy,” says Boulder Chamber CEO John Tayer. “We take each one very seriously and do everything we can to avoid that.”

Boulder Chamber CEO John Tayer says that no official numbers have become available regarding the amount of small business closures happening in Boulder. Much of that information will be delayed until each business has alerted the tax authorities or reached out to the city personally.

Even with these closings, the future of many — specifically those in the food industry — hangs in suspense as cool weather, which traditionally brings the slowest season in food, beckons and outdoor dining becomes less of an option.

And with the lift the Paycheck Protection Program provided to some businesses running out soon, and with continued suppressed demand, Boulder small businesses face a tough fall and winter.

[A third of Boulder restaurants could shutter by September] 

Pearl Street in early September, outdoor dining still in full swing. Image: Tatyana Sharpton.

A temporary setback for some

Brad Belanger, owner of Laugh-Lines Comedy Club LLC, who had just opened the New York-style comedy club at 1739 Pearl Street in January right and quickly pivoted to a comedy cafe in its place when the state disallowed large gatherings and shut down clubs, made the difficult decision to close Laugh-Lines Pearl Street location at the end of June.

Brad Belanger

With people staying at home more, the comedy cafe couldn’t keep up with the revenue needed to keep the business afloat, and when comedian D.L. Hughley passed out onstage while performing a stand-up set in Nashville, Tennessee, diagnosed with Covid-19 shortly after, working towards facilitating a performative space during a pandemic didn’t seem realistic anymore to Brad.

“[The D.L. Hughley incident] really made it more real,” Brad told BLDRfly. “It didn’t seem like it was really worth the investment anymore.”

Even though its brick-and-mortar location has ceased to exist, Laugh-Lines lives on through its Instagram account as an autonomous entity, and Brad has a brewing collaboration in the works with Boulder Comedy Show‘s Brent Gill.

For now, Brad plans on continuing to do comedy shows independently until things go back to normal, including a socially distanced show at the Denver Improv comedy club on October 11 with the Dope City Comedy Tour.

“I have big plans for Laugh-Lines,” says Brad, who images the business growing into a multiple-location operation. “I had them before the pandemic and still have them after. If anybody is interested in investing, we are open to investors and conversations.”

The Covid shutdown also caused Pearl Street Mall’s Tahoma Tequila Bistro to close when the Mexican restaurant couldn’t reopen at anywhere near full capacity, until at least next year, its former owner Peter Soutiere tells BLDRfly, which is what Tahona needs to remain solvent.

If the beloved restaurant, which focused on locally-grown ingredients and showcased arguably Boulder’s biggest selection of tequila, were to make a comeback it would need to be a complete reopening and not just a few tables on the street for a few months until the winter takes that away.

For now, Peter is “going to stay the HELL out of the restaurant business.”

What we can do


Since many of these businesses won’t appear as though they struggle, we easily forget what goes on behind the scenes. “It’s hard for a lot of people to understand what’s going on,” says Downtown Boulder CEO Chip. “When you go out to eat, you’re being taken care of. Back of the house, things could be really hard but not out front. What our business owners do is put on a good face.”

Since restaurants operate at 50 percent capacity and can only accept so many patrons at once, stagger the times you normally go out to eat so you don’t go at the same times as everyone else. If you have a favorite place, make a point of asking what you can do to help them.

Do your Christmas shopping early! Head downtown or to Boulder-based local or online shops such as Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary or shop bath bombs at Infused CBD Marketplace before buying the same thing on Amazon.

Header Image: Laugh-Lines’ Brad Belanger first hanging the comedy club’s sign back in January. Image: Brad Belanger.