Coronavirus, Featured, Sherrie Peif

Restaurants hope governor will reopen their doors as soon as possible; alcohol sales won’t sustain them for long

GREELEY — It may be awhile before anyone knows if the easing of regulations that allow restaurants to sell curbside cocktails actually helps the industry perhaps hardest hit by the shuttering of businesses by Governor Jared Polis in response to the coronavirus.

Last week, Polis ordered restaurants and bars to shut down for 30 days to inside dining, forcing many to make a switch to deliver or curbside pickup only.  Just a few days later, Polis lifted regulations that prohibit the sale of beer and cocktails to go, allowing sealed cocktails so long as they are ordered with food, the purchaser is over 21, the person delivering the order is over 21, and the person delivering the food is an employee of the establishment.

For example, Uber Eats or other food delivery services cannot deliver alcohol.

Businesses say the ability to sell alcohol has helped to-go sales a bit, but they don’t know if it will be enough to compensate for the losses.

Employees at several Colorado Springs restaurants, who didn’t want to be identified, said alcohol sales were helping with orders. They had seen orders pick up immediately after learning they could sell alcohol with the dinners.

Many have found ways to entice new business, such as offering family-style meals.

The Cheesecake Factory is giving away a free slice of cheesecake with every $30 order. The Rio Grande, which originally posted it was going to close until further notice, changed course after the alcohol regulations were lifted and will now offer pickup along with its signature margarita.

Mike and Shelly Santeramo

Mike Santeramo, who owns Santeramo’s Pizza House and Italian Food in Greeley, said he has been busy enough to maintain his ability to pay basic bills for now, but he doesn’t know how long it will continue.

Santeramo’s has 50 years of history behind the name. For 38 years under his parents, and after a nearly 30-year absence, 12 years since he reopened the restaurant in 2007.

“I understand why (Gov. Jared Polis) did it. It spreads with large groups,” Santeramo said about the closure order, adding the sentiment behind adding alcohol sales is appreciated. “But we’re still not getting the business we were getting. People don’t order alcohol like they would if they were dining in.”

Santeramo’s offers a free house salad with all orders and has found a way to offer its signature Italian margarita. Santeramo said they will also continue to honor their usual Friday and Saturday night specials on the drink with carry out orders.

Santeramo said his business was booming when the virus hit, and he’s thankful he has a loyal clientele, but he doesn’t know how newer businesses can survive with an extended shut down.

“Our business was actually climbing, and this hit,” he said. “It comes to the point of when do you just shut down? If we can just maintain and cover the costs of food, costs of the rent and a couple of employees I have to pay, maybe I can go for a while. But if it slows, then I’ll have to figure out how long before I call it quits.”

Loveland resident Tim Jenkins said when he eats out, he is frequenting the locally owned businesses verses the fast food places because the smaller mom and pop places need the support more.

Jenkins said he believes there are more steps Polis could take to help the restaurants stay afloat.

“He could allow them to open at half their usual capacity and for reservations only so they could control the flow of business and the distance between tables,” Jenkins said. “They could put people back to work and get some of their business back quicker.”

Santeramo, who had to lay off 18 people and is down to a staff of four, said he’d be open to that idea. Although he guaranteed them their jobs back when this was over, he said he’d like to get back to normal as soon as possible.

“I totally appreciate all of our customers supporting us through this,” Santeramo said. “We will keep doing what we’re doing and keep it going as long as we can.”

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