One year ago, Polis issued order to shut down restaurants and bars because of growing pandemic

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DENVER — On March 16, 2020, Gov. Jared Polis, issued an order, at the advice of public health officials, that would have a lasting impact on the restaurant and bar industry.

“Effective immediately, the state of Colorado and I are ordering temporary suspension for 30 days, again, renewable, of dine-in services at restaurants and bars,” he said at a press conference.

The order went into effect the following morning. That temporary suspension would last for more than two months before Polis allowed restaurants to reopen at 50% capacity on May 27, 2020. Before, they could operate only through pickup and delivery.

A year after Polis’ initial announcement, some restaurants and breweries are looking back at the year they’ve had.

“It’s definitely nothing that it’s in any textbook in anything that’s ever happened,” Leah Watson, co-owner of Hops and Pie/Berkeley Donuts, said Tuesday.

Before the pandemic, outdoor seating at her location in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood was a pipe dream.

“I think this really pushed us to do it,” she said. “Never had we thought that it would go like this.”

In addition to the community’s endless support, the outdoor seating has become Watson’s saving grace.

“The amount of tables that we’re allowed inside with the six feet apart is not sustainable, so this has really afforded us to maintain our staff and to keep things rolling,” she said.

Dave Bergen, the owner and co-founder of Joyride Brewing Company in Edgewater, also had to change his business model to stay afloat, which now includes canning beer. Even that hasn’t been too profitable.

“We’ve got to pay for the can. We have to pay for the rental of the equipment to actually do it. We have to pay for the labels,” Bergen said. “If it wasn’t for [the Paycheck Protection Program] and other grants and things like that, I’m not sure if we would still be here.”

According to Bergen, who also serves on the board of directors of the Colorado Brewers Guild, 33 breweries closed in the past 12 months because of restrictions.

“People think the breweries are absolutely killing it because liquor stores are killing it, but that’s not the case,” he said.

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Still, with restrictions easing and the vaccines becoming more widely available, Bergen is looking toward the year ahead. It just takes some more patience.

“You know, it’s not just a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “It’s really, really bright, and we’re getting towards the end.”