It came as a shock this summer when Boulder’s iconic 27-year-old restaurant The Med closed its doors in the fallout of Covid-19.
The reverberations of the pandemic on Boulder small businesses continue to echo up and down Pearl Street and beyond. Among its casualties include newer outfits like Laugh-Line Comedy Club, classics such as The Med and Riffs Urban Fare and cultural touchstones like Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe.
In June, The Med, and its sister restaurants Brasserie Ten Ten and Via Perla under The Walnut Group umbrella owned by Peggy and Joe Romano, became one of the most high-profile shutdowns. The Med is a Boulder institution.
With 543 seats in The Med, Joe and Peggy know they couldn’t feasibly operate the space with only the required 50-person max allowance. The pair decided to focus on Via Perla for take-out — which, Peggy recounts, gave them some semblance of community, since its covered patio gave people a place to come together. Unfortunately, this did not last long with Pearl Street closing for Boulder’s al fresco summer, which was “well-intended, but not well-implemented,” Joe told Boulder restaurateur Dave Query on the F Club podcast.
When the guidelines changed and restaurants could seat 50 percent of their capacity, this created further dilemma for the Walnut Restaurant Group, who needed at least 80 percent occupancy to break even. After spending nearly $740,000 to keep operations up for the initial eight or nine weeks (without using any Paycheck Protection Plan money), Peggy and Joe realized it had come time to call a time out.
For both Peggy and Joe, the heart of the dining industry lay in the personal moments of connection and the experience, and without that — and all of the state and federal guidelines and regulations — it wasn’t the same. “Do you want to take your life savings and have them disappear while doing something you don’t love anymore?” asked Peggy.
With no foreseeable return-to-norm in sight, Peggy and Joe agreed that the most feasible thing to do, unfortunately, would be to close. The pair told Query that they are currently in the process of selling The Med and its second floor offices, and have people looking at both Brasserie Ten Ten and Via Perla.
However, there’s a possibility, they said, that they may reopen one of the restaurants if they don’t sell.
Header Image: Joe and Peggy Romano. Image: Tim Romano