Area restaurants say they aren’t worried about winter months and limited capacity as COVID cases rise |

Area restaurants say they aren’t worried about winter months and limited capacity as COVID cases rise

Patrons enjoy the new outdoor dining section at Carelli's Pizzeria & Pasta during the Craig Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors after-hours mixer in 2017.
Andy Bockelman / Craig Press File

As winter arrives and COVID-19 cases rise, so to do the obstacles facing Moffat County restaurants. On Friday, Moffat County was moved back down into Safer at Home Level Yellow following a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, reducing the capacity at retail stores, offices, restaurants, places of worship and other indoor events to 25% capacity. The change to Safer at Home Level Yellow goes into affect at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Carelli’s Pizzeria owner Brett Etzler is worried about how the business will survive the winter. Etzler said that if they are forced to go down to 25% they will have serious discussions about whether or not to put a roof over the patio behind the restaurant and install heaters to spread customers outside.

Other restaurants in Craig are more hopeful that the townspeople will come through for them.

Xavier Gilroy, a bartender at the Barrel Cathedral kept it simple saying, “We think we’re gonna do just fine.”  

As some established businesses feel they’ll do just fine this winter, what about those moving into a new location? Sizzling Pickle manager Ana Lighthizer, who just recently opened a new location on Ranney Street, says she isn’t worried about the winter months and a decrease in capacity either.

“I think it’s going to be great and you know, if something does happen and we have to cut back even further, you know like we had to shut down before, the community was amazing here,” Lighthizer said.

Some restaurants around town are very strict in their mask wearing policies while others are not. Etzler has been very strict with his staff wearing masks, especially this time of year with people flocking to Moffat County from all over the country for hunting season.

“It’s essential, especially with hunting season going on right now,” Etzler said. “We have people from all over the country here: California, Minnesota, Indiana, from all over the place coming into town here. So we’re making sure we are protecting us and we are protecting our customers as well by wearing our face masks.”

“All my employees are masked,” Lighthizer added. “We do what we are supposed to.”

A concern that all of the restaurants have is how to socially distance customers and seat people outside when the weather is cold. One perk that the Barrel Cathedral has over other restaurants in the town is that they have three fire pits outside of the bar.

“We’ll absolutely accommodate people outside sitting around the fire pits, if they wish to do that as well,” Gilroy said of the Barrel Cathedral. “That’s why we have them.”

While that might work for restaurants that have outside seating capabilities, places like the Chuck Wagon and the Chow Hall don’t have the ability to do that for the winter months. Chuck Wagon and Chow Hall owner Bobby Howard said that they would have an outdoor space but they don’t have room in either of their restaurants, with a hotel parking lot taking up the space that could be outdoor seating at the Chuck Wagon and no space outside the VFW, where the Chow Hall is located.

One of the big protections that the state government has done for restaurants heading into winter is a $10,000 grant program for restaurants in the Centennial state.

Governor Polis, Xcel Energy, and the Colorado Restaurant Association have all agreed to donate a total of $500,000 to Colorado restaurants.

In regards to this government assistance, Etzler said in no uncertain terms that they would apply for this latest grant.

“We will [apply] for sure,” he said. “We applied for the other payroll protection plan, and got that, and it probably kept us going, to be honest with you.”

Gilroy said that the brewery was still undecided in regards to whether or not they would apply for the grant, while Lighthizer said that the Sizzling Pickle will be applying for the $10,000 grant.

Restaurants all around Craig and Moffat County will be struggling with the socially distanced guidelines and the winter months.

However, these restaurants, for the most part, are not worried and are confident that their neighbors and friends will pick them up.

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