The restaurant industry is attempting to climb back after the recent shut down due to Covid-19. Esters Neighborhood Pub, proud Greater Glendale Chamber of Commerce member, which has locations in Virginia Vale and Park Hill was hit hard with the closure that began March 16, 2020. However, they quickly shifted to survival mode in March and figured out how to be most effective with an all new takeout program. “The to-go business was a small part of our business and overnight, it became 100% of our business,” said Paul Sullivan, owner of Esters Neighborhood Pub.
The first few weeks were very scary according to Sullivan. He had to let the majority of his employees go which he said was difficult. During this three-week span, Esters was able to secure funding through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). “Once I got that PPP loan for each restaurant, I was able to set a plan and hire back some people and then we developed the to go aspect of the business,” said Sullivan. “We just kind of survived for a while and we are lucky to have the community support us in both neighborhoods we are in.”
The community in each of these neighborhoods stepped up to purchase meals from Esters for healthcare workers and they also bought gift cards too as Sullivan says, “chip in and be nice.” “I think a lot of my co-workers and I realize what we are thankful for and that we have a job and sometimes you take that for granted,” said Sullivan. “Now we are happy to work long shifts. When you go through a big pandemic, you are thankful for going to work.”
Though Covid-19 was a pandemic that crushed many businesses around the country, Sullivan looks at the silver lining. “I think we understand the to go business and how to execute that food better and how to set up systems,” said Sullivan. “We have a curbside system at both restaurants where people can order online or call in and we have the food ready for them on the curb and they literally don’t have to get out of their car.”
Sullivan has been able to hire back close to 80 percent of his staff. Due to the current health guidelines, his restaurants are only allowed to have a capacity of 50 patrons inside the restaurant. The Virginia Vale location has the ability to have an additional 24 customers on the patio with tables spaced eight feet from one another.
During the shutdown, Sullivan sought advice from the Colorado Restaurant Association and participated in bi-weekly conference calls so he could be better educated on all of the rules, regulations, and health guidelines. They had frequent updates on current legislation so Sullivan spent the majority of his days immersing himself in this research.
“The biggest takeaway from this was recognizing that before the pandemic, we got people into our restaurant and gave them a sense of well-being,” said Sullivan. “We gave them great service and great food and we created a great environment and by the time they left, they had a sense of well-being and had a great experience. Now, I have to create that before they come here. I have to set this restaurant up and train all of my co-workers to be safe and healthy. I have to make people want to come here with their families in this Covid world.”
Esters has expanded its capacity by putting a tent with tables and chairs in its parking lot at the Virginia Vale location. It allows for an additional 40 seats which put the total capacity at this location to 114. The Park Hill location can accommodate 50 inside and 50 on the patio for a total capacity of 100.
The Chamber has been an important part of Esters business model. In fact, they renewed for another year and as Sullivan points out, it is worth it and the Chamber will always be there for them. “It’s a big picture and we appreciate the Chamber and the support from the community.”
Esters Neighborhood Pub is located at 1950 S. Holly St. and 2201 Oneida St. in Denver. Visit www.estersdenver.com for more information, make a reservation, or order online.