As far as restaurants are concerned, winter isn’t coming—it’s already here. Last Thursday, 35-year-old Zaidy’s Deli announced that it was closing its Cherry Creek restaurant indefinitely, and on Sunday evening, word went out that Broadway Market has entered “hibernation mode” for the winter. The last day of operation at the food hall was Friday, October 23, even as it makes plans to reopen early next year.
“It’s a hard decision, but we have to put a lot of things in perspective,” says Jesusio Silva, culinary director and co-owner of the nearly two-year-old establishment. Those things include shrinking revenue, concern over mounting COVID-19 cases, and public health restrictions that inhibit the intended spirit of the 10,000-square foot space.
After the mandatory shutdown this spring, Broadway Market reopened in June with a reduced capacity model, operating five food stalls—Purgatory Pizza, Republik Chiken, Tora Ramen, Tacos al Chile, and Misaki by Broadway—at just two of its nine stalls. This abridged version, says founder Mark Shaker, “wasn’t the real Broadway Market.” Because of public health restrictions, the industrial-chic indoor space, which is designed to seat 430 guests, could serve no more than 100. As a result, tables were separated by much more than six feet and the area looked “terrible,” says Silva. The ambiance also suffered.
“Part of the reason you go to a restaurant or food hall is because of the energy there,” explains Shaker. “And when you have tables spaced and you can’t really get up and move around, it’s not the same environment.” Moreover, public health precautions required Broadway Market to assign seats to every customer and deep clean each table in between parties. These new protocols, though necessary to ensure customer safety, increased labor and operational costs.
Shaker declined to share specifics concerning Broadway Market revenue losses since the pandemic, but described the figure as “significant.” The food hall model, he explains, requires high labor and high volume in order to operate successfully, and Broadway Market lost much of the latter this year due to public health restrictions and reduced foot traffic from local office workers.
Climbing rates of COVID-19 also influenced the decision to hibernate; in fact, on Tuesday, the state of Colorado required that the city of Denver reinstate Safer at Home Level 3 restrictions, which means that restaurant dining capacity was reduced to 25 percent or 50 people, whichever is fewer. Silva says some of his employees expressed concern over the recent rise in case numbers—about 1 in 294 Coloradans are currently infectious, per an October 23 report by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment—and questioned if daily temperature checks instituted for staff could adequately detect the virus. Guest safety, of course, was also top of mind. “We’re trying to get in front of what we see happening on the public health side and just say this is getting worse and worse right now and we need to press the reset button and wait till we can operate correctly,” explains Shaker.
Unfortunately, pressing the reset button required Silva to lay off about 18 employees, many of whom he’s worked with for years. But Silva says he’s already found new employment for all his staffers at other local restaurants. “The last thing you can do is just take care of them,” he says.
Silva will remain busy this winter cooking meals for food insecure Denverites through Broadway Market’s involvement with the Colorado Restaurant Response program. He’ll also be working with Shaker to debut Golden Mill, a new food hall in Golden slated to open in January.
And when Broadway Market emerges from hibernation, likely in March 2021, “we’ll be back better than ever,” says Shaker.
Editor’s note, 10/27/20: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that the city of Denver had reduced restaurant capacity to 25 percent or 50 people, whichever is fewer. This restriction was required by the state, through the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. The article has been updated to correct this error.