Written By Annie Lindgren, North Forty News
With Wellington businesses struggling to make ends meet under all the new restrictions, the Town of Wellington took steps to help expand seating options, and provide funding for outdoor furniture. This has been a game-changer for many businesses facing potential permanent closure.
The current government-mandated COVID-19 restrictions for food establishments say that restaurants can only operate at 50% capacity, tables must be 6 feet apart, and groups can be no larger than eight people. Bars and Tasting rooms are not yet able to open unless they have food prepared on-site.
Trustee Rebekka Kinney noticed other communities making plans to support their restaurants when it came time to open doors for dining. She felt Wellington should take action and brought it to the Board of Trustees. Rebekka, with the support of Mayor Hamman, the Wellington Main Streets Program, Wellington Area Chamber of Commerce, and other Town of Wellington officials put their heads together to iron out logistics. They met with businesses to find out if there was interest in expanding to outdoor seating and get their feedback on what would help make this happen.
The Wellington Board of Trustees approved the Temporary Patio Expansion Program on May 26, 2020. It includes funding to provide patio furniture for the applicants that need it. Any business can apply, as long as they have a valid business license. There must be a clear travel path that meets ADA accessibility requirements. The application process is free, and the form found on the Town of Wellington website at http://wellingtoncolorado.gov/FormCenter/Administration-8/Temporary-Patio-Extension-Program-Applic-72.
“If the town offers to help with the furniture and fencing, then it assures a cohesive look to the downtown vibe,” Rebekka said. Trustee Tim Whitehouse volunteered his services and came up with a draft of what the outdoor seating could look like for various downtown businesses. While the final plan is still in process, the final look will add to the cohesiveness of downtown.
“Town staff has been really responsive and has done the heavy lifting trying to work out details. This is a lot of extra work they have taken on,” explains Tim Whitehouse. “This project has been a whirlwind. A veritable alphabet soup of compliance requirements with constantly changing guidance, sometimes daily.”
“We are modeling our approach based on how other Colorado communities, with state highways running through downtown, are addressing the same issues,” says Kallie Cooper, Executive Director of the Wellington Main Streets Program. The Main Streets Design Committee is helping pick out furniture that will look attractive downtown.
Soul Squared Brewing Company, owned by Aaron and Mary Gray, has been in downtown Wellington since 2017. They serve food through Leave it to Cleaver, a food truck behind the taproom, that the Grays opened in 2019. The Grays are expanding seating behind and in front of their building to increase capacity. Mary explains, “Without expanded seating, it would be detrimental to our business to remain partially closed. The town is really stepping up to help make this happen.”
Mary is excited for a summer of outdoor dining experiences. She had a customer tell her, “Thank you so much for being open. It was nice to sit adjacent to a stranger and enjoy a beer.” People are happy to come back out, see positive change, and return to some level normalcy again. Mary says it brightens her future as well, as these have been uncertain times in business ownership.
Other Wellington restaurants have applied to expand their outdoor dining. Several, like Wellington Grill, Papa’s Table, and Owl Canyon Coffee, already have outside dining options. Keep an eye out for more outdoor seating popping up around town.
Folks are happy to see restaurants open again, as foot traffic returns to historic downtown Wellington. If you aren’t ready to have the in-person experience, remember you can order food for take-out, curbside pick-up, or delivery. This is a challenging time for local businesses, and they benefit from all the support they can get.