Feature: U.S. restaurants take breath in pandemic after 50 pct seating approval

2021-02-22 22:05:52 GMT2021-02-23 06:05:52(Beijing Time) 

by Peter Mertz

DENVER, the United States, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- February 2021 will show the best month of sales in almost a year for the beleaguered restaurant industry in U.S. state of Colorado, insiders said, as three weeks of 50 percent seating had bumped sales up as much as 50 percent to 75 percent.

"Our Fort Collins location is up 75 percent - we're very excited," a senior manager of Doug's Diner in Greeley told Xinhua on Sunday.

As restaurants across the United States slowly reopen in response to COVID-19 cases leveling or falling, the sudden surge in sales has been greeted with gratitude and hope by a 273-billion-U.S.-dollar food industry that got hammered by the fatal disease, according to Statista, a database company.

Doug's Diner is a Greeley breakfast and lunch institution, with six more satellite restaurants along Colorado's populous Front Range that serves "creative, homemade American food with fresh ingredients."

The Front Range is a mountain range located in the central portion of Colorado and southeastern of Wyoming. It is the first mountain range encountered as one goes westbound across the Great Plains of North America and and east of the range grew up to a urban corridor in 200 years.

As of Sunday, there were 399 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Colorado, and the seven-day moving average positivity rate decreased slightly to 3.63 percent, according to the latest data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

The World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2020 recommended that the positivity rate be at or below 5 percent to contain the virus.

Additionally, 797,634 people had been vaccinated with one dose of the vaccine as of Feb. 21, and 379,144 had been vaccinated with two doses. Both vaccines currently authorized are about 95 percent effective and require two doses to achieve immunization.

The data looks like a light at the end of the tunnel to local businesses.

Nation-wide retail sales surged 5.3 percent in January, far higher than analysts and economists expected, providing a needed jolt to an economy that showed signs of weakening at the end of last year.

Since Colorado Governor Jared Polis doubled restaurant seating from 25 percent to 50 percent earlier this month, the 5-star Trip Advisor diner has seen significant jumps in sales at all of its locations, including 60 percent in Greeley, a city with over 100,000 residents.

"People are anxious to get out," the manager told Xinhua.

Trip Advisor's top-shelf review is an added bonus, noting Doug's "attentive service and quality food," with one loyal customer lamenting Saturday on Twitter, "too bad you don't deliver to Nebraska."

"We just had dinner with you all, and we ate and loved every bite. We've never been disappointed," Laurie Moore posted Saturday on Facebook. "These new breakfast offerings look yummy also!"

Similar upsurges were felt across Greeley at Fat Albert's, where the hostess told Xinhua reservations were filling up fast and they would only hold a table for 10 minutes, at the family-owned American eatery famous for its sandwiches and homemade desserts like cream pies, fruit pies and cakes.

Some economist predicted that when the pandemic ends, cash could be unleashed like melting snow in the Rockies. Consumers, who are sitting on a trillion-dollar mountain of cash piled up by months of lockdown-induced saving and successive rounds of stimulus payments, will compete for hotel rooms and restaurant tables.

However, before a post-COVID-19 big boom came true, business insiders warned that the country had to keep restrict prevention measures amid the pandemic for months.

Both Greeley restaurants told Xinhua they were in strict and full compliance regarding COVID-19 precautions. About 100 kilometers south in the state capital, Denver, patrons also noted the extra care.

"Serving people with extreme care to do so safely while also being super busy gives me extreme hope that we will turn the corner and hopefully soon celebrate without restrictions in places that make Denver awesome!" Aaron Rami posted on Twitter on Friday, about Blake Street Tavern.

Blake Street Tavern has been called Denver's Top Sports bar for 10 years straight by Westword - a large facility covering 18,000 feet of space and five rooms with three bars and 65 television sets blasting sports every day of the year.

Located in the trendy River North Art District (RiNo), known for its bars, restaurants, boutiques, and nightclubs, Blake Street is just one block north of Coors Field, home to the professional baseball Colorado Rockies.

Earlier this month, Blake Street announced it is working toward its 5-Star State Certification regarding COVID-19 prevention and preparedness.

Back in early January, after a 40-day restaurant shutdown across the state, restaurants were allowed to open at Code Orange, or only 25 percent - not to the pleasure of many restauranteurs.

"I don't know where the governor came up with 25 percent, because to me, I'd rather be nothing or 50 percent." Blake Street owner Chris Fuselier, told 9News. "You just can't operate at 25 percent and make money," he added.

But Fuselier opened his doors anyway to usher in 2021, posting an interview on Blake Street's website where he called "the resumption of indoor dining at 25 percent is a lifeline to getting back to who we are!"

On Saturday, with the hometown National Hockey League (NHL) Colorado Avalanche away playing the Las Vegas Golden Knights, Blake Street's TV monitors were filled with the National Hockey League game.

At around 4 p.m. local time, a loud cheer erupted from the main tap room at the tavern, as the Av's took a 1-0 lead.

"Hopefully that cheer will be lot louder when we get past this pandemic," a patron told Xinhua. Enditem