Tabatha Knop walks into her Larimer Street restaurant, Work & Class, at 7 a.m. Her chefs had arrived an hour earlier to start making carnitas to fill breakfast burritos for whoever will venture out that day in the snow.

Knop’s schedule hasn’t changed much from five weeks ago, but her team sure has. In early March, business was thrumming six nights a week for the destination-dinner spot.

Work & Class’ motto has always been “square meal, stiff drink, fair price.” It sits across the street from sister restaurant Super Mega Bien, which Knop and her business partners shuttered for the duration of the novel coronavirus shutdown after laying off 57 employees in a single day.

“We’ve stopped counting the days, really; we’re mostly just counting the weeks,” Knop says. “Every day feels the same, sort of, at this point.”

Now Knop’s one open restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.

“Like most restaurants, we took a loss in product that, who knew, our insurance won’t cover,” she says. “Like most restaurants, we’re still having to pay our fixed costs, with one restaurant that has zero income, and another restaurant that has a little [income], but not much.”

The next day the team delivers 91 burritos to families in Curtis Park through that neighborhood association’s Meal Train. Saturday’s orders include 200 meals for Swedish Medical Center. Knop says a few more of her cooks volunteered to help with evening prep.

Even as Super Mega Bien sits closed across the street, Knop is dealing with unexpected costs there. Recently a window at the entrance was broken, “but thank God [whoever did it] was not able to get in,” Knop says.

Her business partner, Dana Rodriguez, is the chef of both restaurants. Earlier this year, she was nominated for a James Beard Award. Now, she stands outside Super Mega Bien cursing the vandal and her larger struggles ahead.

“It’s given us a big lesson about how we can adjust to the challenges we have in life, especially in this industry,” Rodriguez says. “I try to stay positive, and hopefully that keeps us alive.” —Josie Sexton / The Denver Post

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