DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — In a year filled with restrictions, rules and mandates, normal has felt pretty distant. Until now.
For the first time in more than a year, restaurants in a handful of counties around the state have spent their first weekend operating at full capacity. Individual counties are now tasked with determining COVID restrictions, with some deciding no restrictions are needed.
"I think people are coming out more and more because it’s feeling more and more normal," said Michael Strauss, service manager at West Main Taproom and Grill in Parker. "We’re just happy it looks like we’re getting back to some normalcy."
West Main Taproom and Grill opened in 2020 just weeks before the pandemic began. This weekend they were allowed to welcome in as many customers as they wanted with no restrictions. The dining room can hold about 180 people. It’s the first time they’ve been able to do that in more than a year.
Douglas County is one of a handful of counties around the state that has decided no additional COVID restrictions are needed after the state lifted its restrictions on April 16.
Strauss said the restaurant has been full.
"We’re at 100% capacity now which means we can sit every single seat at every single table," said Strauss. "Before Friday, we had to sit every other table. We had about 13 to 15 tables that we just couldn’t sit, that were just sitting dormant over the last year. Now, since Friday, we can sit every single table."
For much of the pandemic, West Main Taproom seated customers outside in ice fishing tents. An investment of thousands of dollars that paid off.
The 50 tents could seat 300 guests at a time at private tables. They’ll keep those as an option moving forward as they've become very popular among customers.
"If these tents didn’t exist and we didn’t go with them, we wouldn’t have been able to have a restaurant," said Strauss. "People love the idea of sitting inside, getting back to normalcy, but I’ll tell you, these tents are kind of a cult favorite. People love the tents and they’re still requesting them."
As the indoor dining room at West Main Taproom and Grill fills up, servers still wear masks and glass shields divide some of the tables and bar areas to keep germs from spreading. Counties in the Denver metro area are expected to do away with COVID restrictions in May.
"It’s as normal as normal gets these days," said Strauss. "It’s hard to remember what normal used to be."
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