Lakewood service businesses talk COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Lakewood service businesses operate

Joseph Rios
Posted 4/1/20

Holly Santistevan opened up the Burrito King restaurant in Lakewood in January of 2019, and before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, life was good. She had loyal, dependable customers coming in daily, and …

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Lakewood service businesses talk COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Lakewood service businesses operate

Josh Santistevan, an owner of Burrito Kings, sanitizes his hands. Holly Santistevan, another owner of the restaurant, said she is concerned what kind of impact the stay-at-home order will have on Burrito King.
Josh Santistevan, an owner of Burrito Kings, sanitizes his hands. Holly Santistevan, another owner of the restaurant, said she is concerned what kind of impact the stay-at-home order will have on Burrito King.
Joseph Rios
Posted

Holly Santistevan opened up the Burrito Kings restaurant in Lakewood in January of 2019, and before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, life was good. She had loyal, dependable customers coming in daily, and her appreciation for the city grew to the point that her restaurant provided free breakfast burritos to the Lakewood Police Department on Valentine’s Day of this year.

But COVID-19 has changed everything, and the business that Santistevan and her family financially rely on has seen a drop in the number of customers it serves.

“We are still seeing our loyal customers, but we don’t know the impact the stay-at-home order will have. We’re going to hold on until the end,” said Santistevan. “If the (residents) that still need to work or the people that need to go out and grab something — our prices have always been affordable, and we’re an outlet for them.”

Santistevan and other Lakewood food and beverage businesses are hanging on, despite restrictions imposed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that stop dine-in-services until April 30. Lakewood businesses have additional hurdles to jump through now as well as Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a stay-at-home order on March 25 — an action that requires residents to stay at home, unless for essential activities, work and services, including picking up food from restaurants. The order will last until April 11.

Santistevan said Burrito Kings has implemented new measures that align with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The restaurant has installed plexiglass to keep its employees and customers separated. Additionally, Burrito Kings has placed tape for customers to stand on in order to keep them at a safe distance from each other.

Burrito Kings is offering curbside pickup as are many other Lakewood entities. Here is a look at what life has been like for other Lakewood service businesses. 

Gaby Bergen, owner of Gabys German Eatery in Lakewood, stands outside her restaurant. Bergen said everything is so unpredictable right now, but she hopes that the community will help her restaurant survive by placing to-go orders.
Gaby Bergen, owner of Gabys German Eatery in Lakewood, stands outside her restaurant. Bergen said everything is so unpredictable right now, but she …

“(COVID-19) has totally impacted my business. I think we had 1% of our usual revenue (after the stoppage of dine-in services), and if it keeps going on like that, we won’t survive."

Gaby Bergen has been serving up German treats at Gabys German Eatery in Lakewood like sauerbraten and rouladen since April of 2018.

She has worked every day since the beginning of the year and thought the week of March 23 would be a good time to take a break. The restaurant had offered take out service the week before, but with business being so slow, Bergen thought she would take time off and focus on cleaning her restaurant.

“(COVID-19) has totally impacted my business. I think we had 1% of our usual revenue (after the stoppage of dine-in services), and if it keeps going on like that, we won’t survive,” said Bergen.

When she returns to work on March 28, Bergen hopes she’ll feel rejuvenated and will have some takeout orders. She plans to offer American comfort food along with her traditional German menu and hopes the change will bring in more business. Gabys German Eatery is also changing its hours to be open seven days a week, Bergen said.

“We are too young to be on unsafe grounds. It is so unpredictable right now,” said Bergen. “I just really hope we can support people.”

Attie Schuler, left, takes an order from Lakewood resident Hannah Bouska outside Village Roaster Coffee and Tea in Lakewood. Eric Bakken, owner of the tea and coffee shop, said he had to lay off 18 of his 26 employees because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Attie Schuler, left, takes an order from Lakewood resident Hannah Bouska outside Village Roaster Coffee and Tea in Lakewood. Eric Bakken, owner of …

“You have to make these awful decisions to preserve the business so that you can offer a job to someone else in the future — but you know you are going to put this other person in this really deep challenge.”

Village Roaster Coffee and Tea Owner Eric Bakken was carrying out extra cleaning precautions long before COVID-19 invaded Colorado. He has friends who are teaching in China, the country where the virus initially broke out at, and he heard first-hand accounts of what life was like over there.

“I could see the future coming. By mid-February, we probably increased wipe down from five times a day to 10 times a day,” said Bakken. “Every surface someone could touch was sanitized.”

Bakken said the Lakewood coffee and tea shop was able to rapidly pivot toward online and pickup orders through its website. He said the process has been stressful but not impossible to carry out, and his customers have picked up on the change of business quickly.

The sale of roasted coffee beans has been a salvation for Village Roaster Coffee and Tea, Bakken said. But one of the hardest moves he had to make was laying off 18 of his 26 employees.

“I never want to do that again. You have to make these awful decisions to preserve the business so that you can offer a job to someone else in the future — but you know you are going to put this other person in this really deep challenge,” said Bakken. “I didn’t see the deepness of the emotion. I know it was there. These kids are 22 or 23, and they’ve had good lives. This is a tough thing.”

Village Roaster Coffee and Tea is not touching customer’s debit or credit cards and is serving coffee with creamer for those who want it. In the past, its customers could serve their own creamer.

“We are open, we are continuing to manufacture coffee, we are continuing to sell teas and spices. We’ll be open tomorrow and beyond in compliance with every state and local order,” said Bakken.

Dianne Zimmerman bags up a to-go order at Chicago Style Beef and Dogs. Zimmerman, owner of the Lakewood restaurant, said she feels like the pandemic has been going on for months. She added that the restaurant is working on finding the new norm.
Dianne Zimmerman bags up a to-go order at Chicago Style Beef and Dogs. Zimmerman, owner of the Lakewood restaurant, said she feels like the pandemic …

"However bad it is for me, it is 1,000 times worse for other people. I don’t feel like I have the right to complain because I can still be here, and I’ll never starve.”

Dianne Zimmerman is carrying on the legacy of her father Joe Margotte by trying to keep business going at the Chicago Style Beef and Dogs restaurant on West Colfax. The restaurant is offering takeout services and Zimmerman said it recently got set up on the Door Dash and Uber Eats delivery service apps. Chicago Style Beef and Dogs is working to get on other delivery services like Grubhub and possibly Postmates.

“It has only been eight days (since restaurants were forced to stop offering dine-in services),” said Zimmerman on March 25. “I feel like it has been months, but it has only been eight days. We just have to find the new norm and go from there.”

Even though Zimmerman admits that Chicago Style Beef and Dogs is struggling, she says it isn’t all bad. Recently, a customer who ordered $22 worth of food paid with a $100 bill and told her to keep the change.

“Things like that make me want to cry. People are really trying to help us,” said Zimmerman. “The majority of the world is awesome. The problem is, we always remember the jerks. We forget sometimes that 95% of the world is awesome.”

Zimmerman said the restaurant has been receiving phone calls and emails from people saying they are rooting for Chicago Style Beef and Dogs. She said the messages have made her feel blessed because she has seen restaurants like Lakewood Grill be forced to temporarily close for now due to COVID-19.

“However bad it is for me, it is 1,000 times worse for other people. I don’t feel like I have the right to complain because I can still be here, and I’ll never starve,” said Zimmerman.

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