By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Local restaurants prepared to close their dining rooms in the city on Friday as Level Red restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic prohibit indoor dining on the same day a popular California burger chain opened two drive-thru locations in Colorado. Owners and their customers said it is essential to buy local on this day as the industry prepares for a tough holiday season and winter ahead.

“It’s important to come out and support our local businesses, it’s important, really important to me as a guy who lives downtown,” said Drew Frank, a regular customer at Blake Street Tavern. “The In-N-Out thing is a fad, it’s not my go-to, we have so many amazing burger places in Colorado.”

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He had lunch with a friend inside the restaurant, one of the last meals he may enjoy in that setting for a while. The City and County of Denver is now at Level Red in the state’s coronavirus response dial, and it will stay that way for at least 30 days. He says he did not even consider going to the popular fast-food restaurant, which had a line backed up for hours at its Aurora location.

“You can get a drive-thru burger anywhere and it’s always going to be average,” he told CBS4. “The local burger scene is really good here.”

Chris Fuselier is the owner of Blake Street Tavern. He encouraged customers to support not only his restaurant but all other local burger spots in Colorado. He had to furlough 60% of his staff this week because of the change in restrictions for restaurants.

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“A lot of us are hanging on by such a thread,” he told CBS4. “For me to have to furlough 35 people yesterday and telling them, ‘I’m not sure when you’re going to be able to come back,’ it’s just heartbreaking.”

Fuselier has an outdoor tent and can take to-go orders, but he worries for others who cannot seat diners outside and for restaurants who make food meant to be eaten at their tables. He says even a burger and fries menu can be hard to sell if the food is traveling, pizza and Chinese dishes are some of the few options that do just as well when delivered.

“Support local, think about us, go to your local restaurant and have a burger there, you can always go to In-N-Out,” he said. “Think about the local independent guy, and that’s where we really need help.”

Frank thinks the restaurants he loves will make sure their customers have a solid takeout experience, so he and his family can continue to order from them while at home.

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“Life happens at restaurants, they need our support right now,” he said. “They’ve supported us, they’re there for our first date, our weddings, coming together with colleagues.”

Shawn Chitnis