Why some Denver restaurants aren’t closed but they’re not open, either

When Jake and Jennifer Linzinmeir closed their Blake Street restaurant Jovanina’s Broken Italian in early July, they said they always planned on coming back.

Jovanina’s has been open for less than two years in Denver, but over the past two decades, the Linzinmeirs have operated restaurants in mountain resort towns, where it’s not unusual for businesses to shutter every year during the off-season.

“We’re pretty used to opening and closing, so it wasn’t that intimidating for us,” Jake Linzinmeir said. Though he added, “It is very expensive to start and stop.”

But with COVID-19 cases on the rise, and a restaurant setup that accommodates indoor seating only and serves family-style meals, the Linzinmeirs decided to board up the windows at Jovanina’s, where they also own the business’ real estate.

They told customers they’d be back in a few months, hoping to buy some time and more knowledge about the novel coronavirus.

“We’re committing in November to say, ‘All right, we’re opening for as much indoor dining as (the state and city) will give us, and focusing on creating a delivery that we’re proud of, and then starting to do a lot of manufacturing,’ ” Linzinmeir explained last week.

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He and Jennifer announced that their Denver restaurant will reopen on Thursday, Nov. 5, just as another wave of COVID-19 cases has swept Colorado, Denver County has limited restaurant seating to 25% capacity, and more and more restaurants around the city are shuttering temporarily.

Among those closed for now are Broadway Market, The Way Back, Brightmarten, Earnest Hall, Shanty Supper Club and Bar Helix. And while some, like Broadway Market and The Way Back, plan to reopen by spring, others, such as Earnest Hall and Shanty Supper Club, have yet to announce a reopening timeline. Brightmarten is closing its Bonnie Brae dining room while still offering limited takeout.

If the Linzinmeirs and Jovanina’s are any indication, these temporarily closed restaurants could very well pick back up by spring or sooner if they figure out another, temporary business model.

When it reopens this week, Jovanina’s space will start to look and act more like a “mini Eataly,” Linzinmeir explained. Shelves positioned between tables will display pickled foods, sauces, pastas and other items for purchase. The Linzinmeirs hope to eventually sell these manufactured goods via subscription service and through retailers, such as Whole Foods.

“We’re looking for other channels to send who we are out there if we can’t do indoor dining,” Linzinmeir said.

Not all restaurants have the ability to close temporarily and figure out a new business model, however. Especially if they’re still paying rent.

On Monday, Bar Helix owner Kendra Anderson announced that her restaurant has been evicted from its space on Larimer Street. Anderson said she had temporarily closed her business in order to transition from an outdoor summer setup to a new indoor one when she received the order to vacate.

“It’s truly heartbreaking to consider how hard my team and I have worked for the past eight months to comply with all COVID-19-related restrictions, come up with multiple pivot concepts and have our finances continually fall short,” Anderson said in a release.

In response to the eviction, her team has started a GoFundMe account to try to raise $25,000 “to help Bar Helix meet its rental and other financial obligations required to reopen,” the release said. It’s a last-ditch effort that Anderson says she never imagined she would take in this situation.

“I was very tentative,” she said. “I’ve never asked for that type of support before, so it’s very uncomfortable. Truly it was a response to people who reached out and asked, ‘How can we help?’ ”

So she started the fundraiser to save her bar, and said whatever money is raised will go toward reopening in the same location or elsewhere. When she closed the outdoor bar in the beginning of October, she started planning around 10 different ways to make a winter endeavor work.

“But I need a minute,” Anderson said of executing it.

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