Covid threatens more local restaurants as Boulder moves to Level Red

Covid continues to claim local businesses + others need extra support

By Tatyana Sharpton Nov 20 2020

Boulder’s 26-year-old southwestern grill Zolo Grill recently announced it will shut its doors on November 25, marking the end of restaurateur Dave Query’s Big Red F Restaurant Group’s first restaurant.

This also marks one of the first, bigger operations to shut its doors from the stress of the pandemic since the Walnut Restaurant Group’s The Med closed this June.

As Covid dial ratchets up to Level Red, formerly lockdown level but now the stage between Orange and new extreme Level Purple, restrictions set in once again. Beginning today, business capacity will cap at 10 percent and restaurants can no longer offer indoor dining. The weight of this new order comes fast on the heels of the recent shift to 25 percent capacity.

Boulder’s Covid-19 Business Obituary

Losing 75 percent of seating proved to have an immediate and enormous impact on operations; while Big Red F’s landlord Tom Gart worked with the company to find a solution, as Dave says, “there was just too much in front of us.”

Dave Query

“All of the effort we’ve been putting towards ghost kitchens, WeDeliver (our own delivery service) and heated outdoor tents was in anticipation of this happening,” Dave Query tells BLDRfly. “We are going to do everything we can to stay open, cooking, slinging, delivering, and moving forward [with the other restaurants].”

With the lockdown some restaurants like West Flanders Brewing and Salt Bistro on the Pearl Street Mall are shifting to a seasonal pause.

Other restaurants, like Shine Boulder which have a patio , opt not to utilize it in order to preserve the bottom line as far as labor, instead focusing on pickup and delivery, and in Shine’s case, its newly launched marketplace which will carry bottled and canned versions of its most popular products.

Jessica Emich

“Under these circumstances, all we can do is get creative, pivot and keep putting one foot in front of the other,” says Jessica Emich, co-owner of Shine. “Admittedly, I wish there was more support and direction from our government to allow some reprieve for all of us affected, from our households to our businesses. I also wish the conversation was more about getting to the root of our health and well-being for ourselves and our planet.”

City helping restaurants with delivery 

In combat of the delivery world’s high prices, the City on November 12 launched a new program called the Restaurant S.O.S (Safe Ordering Service) Program. The current third-party delivery services available charge fees anywhere from 25 to 35 percent of each sale, both on the side of restaurants and the recipient. To help the restaurants keep as much revenue as possible, the city’s new program partners them with a local vendor, Nosh Boulder, who has agreed to cap its restaurant delivery fees at 15 percent of the order, with the city’s funds covering the cost.

Delivery costs will not change for the recipient — you’ll still pay a similar cost with what you pay for other delivery services like GrubHub, UberEats and DoorDash, but this way you know that your favorite restaurants are getting to keep more of the money from your order. This program will run through December 30, the date by which the City needs to use up its funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Mark Heinritz

“Nosh is such an important part of surviving this winter,” says Mark Heinritz, co-owner of The Sink, Boulder’s iconic Hill restaurant which has joined with Nosh. “This can mean hundreds of dollars saved for a business that is just trying to keep people employed, maybe even break even and then live to fight another day.”

“With the reduced revenues due to takeout/delivery restrictions, rent can be 30 percent or more of sales, delivery fees 15 to 20 percent of all sales, cost of goods can be 30 percent, wages 30 perfenct, then you have the operating costs. It is obvious that this is not sustainable and why delivery fees need to be reduced. ”

According to City of Boulder’s Community Vitality Department communications specialist Jennifer Bray, Nosh has already had over 70 restaurants have sign up. “It’s really important we get the word out to other restaurants,” Jennifer says.