While many Colorado restaurants are offering carryout and delivery service in hopes of staying afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, three-and-a-half-year-old Goods Restaurant is taking a different approach: giving meals away for free.

Restaurant staffers are preparing heat-and-eat meals with the Goods’ remaining inventory, then working with a grassroots volunteer network to distribute the food to organizations and people in need. The restaurant’s 23 employees, who are now unemployed for the foreseeable future, are also taking the meals home to feed their families, says co-owner Mark Whistler. “This is a really hard place for me to be because of the uncertainty of our own financial picture,” Whistler says. “But even if it means we don’t come back in business, I’ll know that we did the right thing.”

The Goods Restaurant. Photo courtesy of the Goods Restaurant

The restaurant on East Colfax initially planned to switch to a takeout model following governor Jared Polis’ Monday order that all restaurants and bars close for in-person dining for at least 30 days. (The order came after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s announcement that the city’s restaurants and bars must close for eight weeks.) Then, Monday night, Whistler had a long conversation with business partner Charlie Woolley. Together, they reached a different conclusion, deciding to close the restaurant indefinitely.

“This is not a time for profit. This is a time to just help,” Whistler says. 

The Goods prepared its first batch of meals Wednesday afternoon—three types of macaroni and cheese, two salads, and chicken fingers, corn dogs, and fries for kids—and Whistler says he knew immediately they’d made the right call. “We all have to do what we can to help each other right now,” he says. 

Once the restaurant cooks through its inventory, Whistler says he plans to donate any remaining items to charity or ask the community for donations to continue the meal-making efforts. “I would like to help as many people as possible without restriction,” Whistler says. “Even if it means giving up our last roll of toilet paper.”

When she saw a Facebook post explaining the Goods’ decision to close, Denver resident Chandra Lopez knew she wanted to help. Lopez, a corporate travel planner, had already been posting on social media, asking if anyone in her network wanted to form an impromptu volunteer network that could mobilize and help where needed.

Soon, she had amassed enough volunteers to create an email list and begin using a task management platform. Now, when meals are ready at the Goods, Lopez’s team helps deliver them. “We’ve been on the lookout for people who need our help,” she says. “Mark was just the perfect jumping point to really start our efforts. What they’re doing is such a massive way to step up for their community.”

2550 East Colfax Ave., 303-355-5445

Sarah Kuta
Sarah Kuta
Sarah Kuta is Colorado-based writer and editor. She writes about travel, lifestyle, food and beverage, fitness, education and anything with a great story behind it.