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Culinary Distancing: A take-out, cook-in quarantine survival guide for uncertain times 

click to enlarge You can help out by dining in. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • You can help out by dining in.

Everything is happening fast. It’s Monday evening, just after Gov. Jared Polis’ announcement that all on-site dining in restaurants and bars will be suspended for at least 30 days to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Having seen cities and states elsewhere already enact similar protocols, many of us industry folk knew this was coming. A few places announced closures early. I began getting grief-laden notices about staff layoffs. Establishments began to pivot toward the still-allowed take-out and delivery models, in addition to drive-thru.

Earlier, Grubhub had announced deferred commission fees for impacted independent restaurants, as well as matching promotions and a newly created Grubhub Community Relief Fund, plus contact-free delivery for concerned patrons. Uber Eats also announced waived delivery fees from indie spots as well as marketing campaigns to promote local restaurant delivery and an option for daily versus weekly payouts to restaurants to aid cash flow, plus “contactless” delivery.

My inbox holds a panoply of urgent and, at turns, interesting emails ranging from Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk Rock N’ Roll Steakhouse’s defiance of Nashville’s bar/restaurant mandate (‘Merica, yeah! — also, what a dick) to potential relief from the Restaurant Worker’s Community Foundation announcing a Restaurant Workers COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund. The Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center has created a Disaster Recovery and Continuity Guide.

I’ve been on the phone with a member of the Colorado Restaurant Association — they’d had Polis’ ear directly earlier in the day to advocate for eateries. Our conversation covered topics such as increased insurance and workers’ comp for newly minted delivery drivers; ways to somehow keep employees paid during the downtime; whether those laid off will be able to apply for and receive an unemployment check in time to make rent (many restaurant people live in the uncertain, paycheck-to-paycheck realm). Questions remained, such as “can I serve someone a drink on my patio while they await a pickup order if no crowd larger than 10 gathers?”
These are the early moments of unease amidst overnight reinvention to avoid economic demise. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Some places may fold and never come back. The stock markets seem to indicate depression, not recession. We’re fucked, right?

Maybe, but we can still fight the good fight, band together as a community and do our best to keep the great machine running. We absolutely can support many of these affected bars and restaurants during this time with the simple action of ordering food from them. We can buy bags of local coffee, local beer and spirits at liquor stores and infuse what money we can into these businesses to keep them alive until the market stabilizes and the bans lift.

We’re aware of many wonderful efforts underway by neighborhood and business groups and city and county agencies and we applaud everyone’s dedication and concern. For our part, the Indy is altering its usual behaviors in the coming weeks.

We’re tentatively planning to hold off much of our food reviewing in favor of food news and advocacy. The reason I’m writing this roughly 12 hours from our print deadline is to replace a review that’s no longer relevant (at least until shops fully reopen). We too will pivot on the fly. Though we sometimes have to write honest, tough criticisms as a utilitarian service, know that we deeply love, respect and are as devoted to our food/drink community as anyone inside the industry. You are our people.

So, on Sunday night, I created an open Facebook group — everyone welcome — called “Culinary Distancing: Take-out, Cook-in quarantine survival guide,” with the goal of creating a platform for restaurants to post takeout and delivery deals and other timely info for the community. The group also encourages chefs or anyone to post recipes to inspire folks cooking at home. In the first 24 hours, more than 900 people have joined. We invite you to participate, report on specials you see, or post a favorite recipe or links to resources for affected eateries and hospitality industry people.
We will all get through this strict 30-day diet together, especially if we look out for the most vulnerable among us. Help out by still dining out, even if that actually means dining in for a little while.

Eat well and be well, friends.

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