Breaking News
More () »

Why this Denver restaurant is hesitant to reopen

The owners said it's too big of a risk because the head chef has immune issues.

DENVER — When restaurants are given the green light to reopen their dining rooms, that doesn't mean they have to.

That's the way Meadowlark Kitchen, a popular burger joint in the River North Art District, is leaning. Its owners have decided to shutter the restaurant completely -- foregoing takeout and delivery options.

To bring in some kind of income, Meadowlark Kitchen is instead selling work from local artists who've said they wanted to raise money for restaurants hurting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Denver muralist raising awareness and money for hurting businesses

The reason owners Kasey Carns and Joshua Bitz have decided to temporarily shut their doors is because they want to make sure their entire staff will be protected from the virus. That includes Bitz, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes more than seven years ago.

"It’s very serious for him to stay safe and alive during this time," Carns said. "We just want to be really careful with that."

"I choose to live and survive through this pandemic and money is secondary," Bitz said.

Bitz said that feeling largely stems from the small space he and his team are confined to as they work. The restaurant is already small with around 500 square feet of customer space. Bitz's kitchen has even less space.

"It’s an open kitchen and it’s 12 feet long," he said. "That’s it. That’s where we do all of our prep, service. Everything comes off of that tiny little line. It’s worked but given the current situation I can’t guarantee the safety of my employees."

Both Carns and Bitz said they are concerned smaller restaurants without proper space for customers and employees to spread out could become a place for people to potentially spread COVID-19. If that happens, they said they believe those businesses might have to close a second time.

RELATED: Denver unveils program to help restaurants, bars navigate COVID-19

"It is going to spread quickly in those tight situations," Bitz said.

Carns said it's important businesses remember their employees are people to protect as well and their safety should be as much a priority as customers.

"Even if reopening does mean we’re going to make money – that’s not the most important thing right now," Carns said. "Public health and safety is definitely number one on our list."

"There’s a lot going on in the world right now and I don’t want to end up a statistic to this pandemic," Bitz said.

RELATED: Polis says restaurants will get preliminary reopening plans by end of week

RELATED: Some restaurants may be adding a COVID surcharge to your bill