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When Little India Restaurant & Bar halted on-premise service at its Speer and University locations in late November 2020 to comply with Level Red state-mandated dining restrictions, laying off employees was out of the question for owner Simeran Baidwan. Instead, he did seemingly the opposite, signing a lease on a space in the West Highland neighborhood just a few weeks later to open a third location of his restaurant and ensure there would be enough shifts for his 38 staff members.
“Our takeout and delivery business was doing well at the two other locations, but our biggest issue was what to do with our servers and other people in the kitchen because we weren’t allowed to open for sit-down dining and so forth,” says Baidwan, who opened Little India in 1998. “We didn’t want to furlough any of these folks who had been with us for a long time, so we just figured we’d extend ourselves into a new location and move them there.”
Little India’s newest outpost opened for takeout and delivery on January 4—coincidentally, Baidwan’s birthday—in the former Matador space on 32nd and Lowell. Launching an additional location has been on Baidwan’s mind since the onset of the pandemic, but he says the needs of his employees pushed him to follow through. During the March 2020 indoor dining shutdown, Little India lost about 80 percent of its incoming revenue, but shifting focus to takeout and delivery, feeding frontline workers, and Paycheck Protection Program loans helped the business get by—and avoid furloughing any staff members.
“It [sales] still hasn’t been back to 100 percent, but it’s to the point where we can at least get over the speed bump,” Baidwan says. “At this point, it’s not for us. As an owner, it’s all about the people who are attached to the Little India brand. Our first priority is the Little India family.”
The West Highland location opened for dine-in service today with a refreshed interior. To enhance the space with Indian-style essences, Baidwan hired Denver’s Black Hound Design, which will gradually add a custom facade, metal bar back, and art elements.
When further COVID restrictions are lifted and on-site alcohol sales are allowed past 10 p.m., Baidwan hopes to keep Little India open until 2 a.m. That means diners can look forward to the debut of a late-night menu of dishes such as lamb burgers with Indian spices, chicken drumsticks, and cheesy masala fries. Until then, order Little India’s lamb vindaloo, chicken biryani, and other favorite dishes for takeout and free delivery from all three locations via its website; dine-in service is also currently available at Little India’s Speer and University locations.
Little India Restaurant and Bar is open daily from 11 a.m.–11 p.m.; 3496 W. 32nd Ave., 2390 S. Downing, and 330 E. 6th Ave.