Restaurants across the country feared the pandemic would force them to permanently close, but one breakfast spot in Denver accepted the shutdown as an opportunity to rebuild.
Now, the owners are reopening their doors to a whole new set of challenges.
“Even though it’s not a big restaurant, for Denver, I still think it’s one of our old, great restaurants,” said John England, the owner of Dozens, a 35-year-old restaurant perched in the middle of Downtown Denver.
The wooden porch-wrapped restaurant is a unique sight in the midst of ultra-modern, high-rise buildings that sit all around it. Preserving the look from the past is one part of what makes Dozens so special to so many people.
“This establishment, especially, it kind of reminds me of the movie 'Batteries Not Included' from the 80’s, where there’s the small, little diner and everything’s being built up around it,” said longtime customer Matt Pagel.
Now, the once-busy dining room is serving a heaping helping of loneliness to owner England.
“It’s my living, but it’s also a good part of my social life,” he said. “My wife and I both work here, so it’s our family life too, and right now, it’s a little depressing,” said England of seeing the empty chairs at his once packed bar.
England knew this emptiness opened a window of opportunity—a chance to remodel the restaurant.
“We’ve painted and things like that before, but we've never been able to get ourselves to close long enough to do the major type of remodel we're doing now,” said England.
New floors, lighting, plumbing and artwork were installed during a weeks-long closure during quarantine.
England said he saved up for tough times, but never imagined the coronavirus outbreak would bring such turmoil to the restaurant industry across the country.
“We were lucky we were at a point where we could take it,” said England. “We don’t have any income, but I haven’t felt constrained...yet."
Post remodel, England is feeling the pressure to reopen the right way. He is doing pickup only orders and making sure the transactions use minimal, if not zero, contact.
“Us in the industry are doing absolutely everything we can to make it a safe pick-up experience, and then moving forward, a dining experience,” he said.
His customers said they’ll order out until this old-school stop can have them in to stay. Many expressed excitement at enjoying the completed renovations.
“It’s quality people, quality food, and we’ll continue to support them no matter what,” said Pagel.
England said until he can see his customers sitting inside his restaurant enjoying a meal once again, he will take solace in the small victories.
“We’re powering through it,” England said. “It’s gotten busier everyday. Today, we served one more person than yesterday,” he said.
If you’d like to order from Dozens, click HERE.