Centennial restaurants face tough season as indoor shutdown returns

Some eateries get by with takeout, small-business grant from city

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Cold weather and mostly empty outdoor seating on The Streets at SouthGlenn's main block on a Tuesday evening offered a preview to what could be a brutal winter for local restaurants under the Denver metro area's indoor dining shutdown.

Most outside dining seats sat unused at Centennial's flagship shopping center, with what appeared to be new outdoor tent seating at Indulge Bistro and Wine Bar also empty in the half hour after 5 p.m. on Nov. 24.

Colorado moved Denver metro-area counties — including Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson — to a new “level red” of pandemic-related restrictions effective Nov. 20. The new level prohibits indoor dining and personal gatherings, moves the last call for alcohol up to 8 p.m., and tightens capacity limits at gyms and some office-based businesses. Other counties in the state moved to those restrictions in late November as well.

A sign on the door of Crawfish Boil Company at SouthGlenn in west Centennial, seen on Nov. 24, announced the restaurant would offer to-go service only until further notice. 

Khiem Nguyen, the restaurant's owner, told the Centennial Citizen in June that his parents serve and work the kitchen in the “small mom-and-pop shop,” as Nguyen calls his business. Partly with his parents in mind, Nguyen has been proactive in taking precautions against COVID-19 during the pandemic.

Across town, the crew at LuBo's NY Pizza is leaning on takeout only too — but for a different reason.

“We've been a lot more blessed than a lot of places out here because we've been out here for 20 years,” said T. Lycan, the pizza shop's night manager. “Takeout business is enough to keep us open.”

It hasn't been without challenges: LuBo's had to furlough a couple of high-schoolers who work as dishwashers, said Lycan, who withheld his first name because he's heard of other restaurant workers receiving backlash for comments they've made publicly.

He expects to bring the furloughed employees back once indoor dining is allowed again.

“We've been pretty lucky — I know revenue's definitely down, but we've been able to keep all the people who pay a mortgage and have kids and move them to other roles,” Lycan said.

LuBo's — on the corner of South Parker and East Orchard roads — has a small patio, but it didn't want to expand outdoor dining because it found that the costs and permitting process wouldn't be worth it, Lycan said. Before indoor dining closed, the restaurant was only busy on Fridays, he added.

“People are still pretty scared, still being cautious,” Lycan said.

His restaurant has been able to access financial assistance but hasn't needed it, so the management passed it up.

“We want people on the verge of closing to get it,” Lycan said.

The City of Centennial's business grant program was an option LuBo's went without, Lycan said.

One restaurant that did receive funds from Centennial's small-business grant program is Hyderabad House on East Arapahoe Road near South Quebec Street, said Kishore Maranani, the restaurant's owner. The Indian restaurant furloughed a handful of part-time employees, but it has seen some bright spots in demand recently.

“A lot of people even calling right now to ask, 'Are you guys open, are you guys open?'” Maranani said.

He said he's heard troubling trends from other restaurants in his area, though.

“The sales have come down — people are a little reluctant to do the takeout too,” Maranani said.

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