The 30-day statewide prohibition of dine-in service in Colorado restaurants, enacted to slow the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) comes as yet another hit in an ongoing cascade of national economic blows. But restaurants in Trinidad are doing their best to cope, stay open, continue serving customers and keep paying employees.
While dining rooms are closed, customers can still pick up food to go and order delivery from many local establishments. Jodie Van Buskirk, owner of The Cafe on Main Street said, “I assume it’s going to have a large impact on our revenue. We are offering packaging up and to-go curbside, we’ll see how that works.”
Van Buskirk doesn’t see any immediate effect on her employees. “We’re probably going to cut some shifts down but I will try to make sure they are still taken care of, I don’t know how yet, but I’ve always taken care of them.”
In addition to restaurants, Governor Polis’ public health order includes food courts, cafes and coffeehouses as well as bars, taverns, breweries and the like. All such places of public accommodation are closed to occupancy by members of the public for 30 days beginning March 17.
In response, Tony Mattorano, owner of Tony’s Diner on E. Main St. said they’re doing take out and delivery, as well as offering discounted family meals such as a chicken dinner with all the sides. “That way everybody gets a chance to have something that’s home cooked. All they have to do is call and come pick it up,” he said.
Regarding employees, Mattorano plans to rotate his workers. “That way everybody makes a few bucks,” he said. “That’s who it’s going to hurt the most, is our help. They’ve got to pay bills too, you know? It’s a very difficult thing for everybody.”
For locals sheltering in place and hungry for food from restaurants that don’t deliver, there’s Restaurant Runners, based in Aguilar. Headed up by Manuel Munoz, they’ll pick up orders from nearly all restaurants in Trinidad and deliver door to door. “I want businesses to succeed,” said Munoz. “We’re doing the best we can to make sure restaurants stay afloat.”
The ban on dining in also includes other caveats. According to Jeff Quinn, co-owner of Bella Luna Pizzeria, health officials told him the new guidelines mean no more than five people can be in the restaurant. “Nobody can be seated at all, they can’t use the bathroom, they can just come in, get their order and leave,” he said. “We’re going to be pretty much a skeleton crew, pretty scary.”
Like other restaurant owners, Quinn faces difficult choices when it comes to his staff. “Unfortunately we’re going to be losing some employees,” he said. But the longer-term outlook is still mostly positive. Bella Luna has been operating in Trinidad for nearly 12 years, having opened up in 2008 during the last economic crisis. “We’re pretty scrappy, we’ll miss the revenue flow for sure but we’ll hang in there, we’ll be alright.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Tony Mattorano of Tony’s Diner. “We have to learn how to deal with this, and I think we’ll get by,” he said.
Trinidad Mayor Phil Rico made a statement Wednesday. “We are experiencing a difficult time with the coronavirus issue,” said Rico. “Trinidad has endured economic hard times in the past. We are a resilient community. If everyone takes the precautions that the state, Las Animas County Health Dept., and the City of Trinidad have laid out, we will come out of this, bruised but not out. Restaurants are on a carryout only, let’s support them.
“More importantly, when this issue passes it will be imperative that the citizens of Trinidad come together and support all of our local businesses.”