Denver bar owners pray for later curfew as Colorado 10 p.m. last call expires

Denver bar owners say their fates rest in the hands of Governor Jared Polis and his decision this week whether or not to tack on a few more hours to their nighttime business.

With bars and nightclubs that don’t serve food closed in Colorado since the end of June, Polis in July turned to restaurants and bars that do serve food, mandating a 10 p.m. last call for alcohol for 30 days to discourage further spread of coronavirus from late-night drinking.

On Friday, Polis’ mandate will expire, and he has yet to clarify whether the 10 p.m. last call will remain in place through the rest of the summer.

“With lower numbers, I’m hopeful that we can make progress on expanding the opportunity for people to enjoy themselves,” Polis said during a Tuesday press conference. “But at the same time, with the virus present, we’re nowhere near a situation where we can return to the way we were living last year without (…) destroying our economy and costing thousands of lives.”

But some bar owners say they may not survive if the 10 p.m. rule continues.

This week, Justin Anthony sat down to compare revenues from before and after the last call was enacted at 10 bars he and his partners own around the city, from River North to downtown, Hale and East Colfax. Across the board, he said, their business has decreased by more than 60% over the last 30 days.

And that figure is compared to an already reduced revenue due to the pandemic, Anthony clarified.

“We’re talking 60% of 60% (of pre-COVID sales),” he said.

At the Ballpark district’s Blake Street Tavern, owner Chris Fuselier says his sales are down 20% since the 10 p.m. last call was enacted, but 80% overall since the pandemic. And down the street from him, Pony Up owner Angela Neri has lost 50-75% of her business, which would typically occur between 10 p.m. and midnight.

Neri said she chose to stop serving by 12 a.m. even before the 10 p.m. last call was ordered, but she caters to a restaurant industry crowd that would normally leave work and have dinner and drinks at the bar in those later hours.

She and other owners think that a midnight last call now could make all the difference.

“I really am praying that (Polis) meets us in the middle at 12 (a.m.), and I think the vast majority of us would be really relieved if that happened,” Fuselier told The Denver Post. “Because if (10 p.m.) is extended for another 30 days, that would be another nail in the coffin for a lot of us.”