The winter months could be difficult for Grand Junction restaurants, so some are receiving help from state and local officials to increase business while others are getting creative.
On Sept. 30, the city opened applications for downtown restaurants to expand their outdoor dining spaces. The city and Downtown Grand Junction pledged a combined $228,500 to pair with $47,000 from the Colorado Department of Transportation to allow for restaurants to expand their outdoor seating onto the sidewalks and, in some cases, parking lots.
“Restaurants are faced with 50% capacities and social distancing, so this will be a lifeline,” said Dave Goe, spokesperson for downtown Grand Junction. “This will add more tables for those businesses and more customers.”
The city ordered a handful of parklets, essentially curbside seating platforms, from the company Colorado Parklets in Durango. The set, which Goe described as giant Legos, will be about 10 feet by 20 feet.
Goe also mentioned that the city is submitting a grant to CDOT to receive funding to buy outdoor space heaters to extend outdoor seating into the cold months.
Not every restaurant is going this route, though.
There’s some greenhouses in front of Bin707 Foodbar and ownership isn’t taking up botany.
The seven greenhouses are spaces for new outdoor seating areas. Bin707, located at 225 N. Fifth St., No. 105, next to Alpine Bank, recently reopened after the restaurant was exposed to COVID-19 in late September.
The installation was delayed because of the COVID-19 exposure, and the restaurant hopes to get its money’s worth through the next couple of calendar months.
“I ordered these back in June or July when it became apparent this wasn’t going to be over by winter,” said Josh Niernberg, chef and owner of Bin707, Bin Burger and Taco Party. “We’re hoping we can use these through November.”
When the guests leave, the door is closed and remains empty for 10 minutes. Then, staff come in to thoroughly sanitize the greenhouse for another 10 minutes before seating the next guests.
Four of the greenhouses are 4 feet by 6 feet and can seat two people, while the other three are 6 feet by 8 feet and seat six people.
Each greenhouse comes with indoor seating similar to the dining room, lighting, a potted plant in the interior and exterior, and heating. As long as people are seated, the doors remain open to avoid creating incubators for the virus, Niernberg said.
“It’s like you’re sitting inside the restaurant,” he said.
Having individual enclosures for outdoor seating means that Bin707 can duck the occupancy limits for seating, as well.
“We checked with the local and state health departments to make sure we were doing everything right,” he said.
The greenhouses won’t keep people warm below freezing and, because of that, Niernberg expects to take them down in December. But they’ll be able to start outdoor eating as soon as mid-February, he said.
Brian Oliver, meanwhile, is going the city route. He applied for the parklets for both of the businesses he is the general manager for: the Dream Cafe at 315 Main St. and the Rockslide Brewery & Restaurant at 401 Main St.
The parkelts won’t be set up until some time in November, Goe said, which could shorten their use before winter. Oliver is hoping that he can get some use out of them before then.
“It’s going to be rough during the winter. We’re hoping for an early spring to use them. We’ll be increasing online ordering to stay afloat,” Oliver said. “In the meantime, all of us local restaurants are really counting on the community to help us through these months.”