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Half of Colorado restaurants may be at risk of permanent closure

CoraFaye's Cafe in Aurora is reopening its dining room on Friday after being shut down for a year.

AURORA, Colo. — Thousands of restaurants were forced to close their doors to customers in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic; though reopenings are in the works, many owners are still struggling. 

Cora Faye's Cafe, a family soul food restaurant in Aurora, re-opens Friday after a year of being out of business. 

When the state-mandated restaurants to shut their dining rooms and turn to-go only, many owners knew it would not be substantial. 

"We kept pushing on, and then I just said okay, this is just not gonna work," Priscilla Smith said. "There were so many changes, and we can't survive off of $200 a day or $250."

A year after closing their dining rooms, restaurants across Colorado continue to face financial hardships due to the pandemic. 

The Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) estimates 1 in 2 restaurants is at risk of permanently closing within six months. Since 2020, close to 94,000 jobs in the restaurant industry were lost. 

"The industry has been absolutely decimated," said President of the Colorado Restaurant Foundation, Laura Shunk. 

"We are expecting this, unfortunately, to be a long recovery; the magnitude of loss is just so great, it's not something that can immediately bounce back," Shunk said. 

That long recovery could take between three to five years at a minimum, Shunk said. Until then, restaurant owners like Smith encourage people to shop small to help keep small businesses alive. 

"If it wasn't for some of the support that I've been getting in addition to the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) and all of that, we would not be open," she said. 

SpotOn provides small businesses with software and technology that helps process payments. Last month, the company started a new campaign called To Denver, With Love, to help local restaurants.

"The people that have been feeding us for so long at our great moments, at our parties and our celebrations, this is our chance to feed them back," said Kevin Bryla, Chief Marketing Officer for SpotOn.

SpotOn will donate $3.03 to the CRA's Angel Relief Fund every time someone posts a photo at their favorite restaurant on the website's virtual love wall. The fund helps support restaurant and hospitality workers in need as a result of the pandemic. 

If someone posts a picture on their social media using the hashtag To Denver With Love, the company will donate $3.03 directly to the restaurant in the photo.

"It doesn't take much time at all; it's actually kind of a pleasant experience, so I encourage everyone to take a little stroll down memory land when we used to sit around tables and restaurants together," said Bryla. 

Bryla says the company will support restaurants and the Angel Relief fund through this program up to $10,000 each. 

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