Elbert Co. restaurants ‘happy’ to open again

For one Kiowa eatery, business is better than it was a year ago

Tabatha Stewart
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 6/9/20

After more than two months of takeout service only, Patty Ann’s Cafe in Kiowa, along with other restaurants in Elbert County, opened its doors to in-person dining on May 27, with limited seating …

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Elbert Co. restaurants ‘happy’ to open again

For one Kiowa eatery, business is better than it was a year ago

Posted

After more than two months of takeout service only, Patty Ann’s Cafe in Kiowa, along with other restaurants in Elbert County, opened its doors to in-person dining on May 27, with limited seating capacity and social distancing measures in place.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of restaurants across Colorado, owner Annette Burmaster, who purchased Patty Ann’s nearly three years ago with her husband Todd, said the community was supportive over the past couple of months, and the reopening of the restaurant has brought in more business that years past.

“We are so happy to be open again,” said Burmaster. “The takeout we’ve been doing for the past couple of months went way better than we thought it would. Our community banded together and have been very supportive and wonderful to our staff. Now, things are a little different than before, but for the most part everyone seems to be doing OK with the new changes.”

Patty Ann’s has a normal indoor capacity of about 95 patrons, with a large patio outside that allows for about 40 additional patrons. Under the second-phase “Safer at Home” guidelines, the cafe is limited to approximately 50 patrons inside. The cafe is a regular gathering place for some residents in the county, and according to Burmaster, customers are happy to have a place to gather once again.

“We pride ourselves on being family-friendly, so normally when you walk in the door it’s been a `seat yourself’ arrangement,” said Burmaster. “Now you have to wait at the front, and send one person from your party in to let us know how many are in your party, if you prefer a booth or a table. A few regulars have sat at the same table or booth for years, and it’s been a little hard for them to adjust and wait while we take time to clean the tables, or have to seat them somewhere else because of capacity requirements. But everyone has been respectful.”

Reopening day was successful, and there was a short wait time to be seated, which wasn’t often the case pre-COVID-19. Burmaster said business has been steady, but not overwhelming.

“We’re beating last year’s numbers,” said Burmaster. “I don’t know why, I can’t explain it. We’re not being overwhelmed but we’re doing very well.”

Bill Phillips, who owns Billy’s Burgers in Simla, opened his restaurant in January of 2020, only to have to close his doors and offer only takeout March 16, when Governor Jared Polis ordered non-essential businesses, including restaurants to close their doors temporarily to help flatten the curve of the Coronavirus. He echoes Burmaster’s sentiment, and said community members have helped his business stay afloat over the past two months.

“A lot of people in the community have been supporting us and we’ve been staying afloat,” said Phillips. “I only have 28 seats, and we’ve had to cut that in half when we reopened in order to keep seats six feet apart.”

Unfortunately, Phillips doesn’t have any room or opportunity to expand his business outside, as many restaurants in Colorado are doing. His capacity is restricted to indoor space only, which includes small tables that seat three people, with one larger table that seats six.

In addition to providing burgers and hot dogs for residents of Simla, Billy’s Burgers also serves as a fundraising entity for the Dakota Ranch Dog Rescue, a 501(c)(3) located in Matheson that rescues large breed dogs. Phillips, an electrical contractor by trade, opened Billy’s Burgers as a way to raise money for the more than 200 pounds of dog food each day that is necessary to feed rescue dogs.

“I’ve divided the restaurant in half. One half is dog-oriented and the other half is military-oriented,” said Phillips. “I’m passionate about helping dogs and veterans, and whenever we can, we set wounded warriors, and those suffering from PTSD, up with rescue dogs. When the COVID hit, naturally things really slowed down, but our customers and people in the community have stepped up and helped us keep going.”

The Colorado Safer at Home phase has been extended until July 1, and while some counties, including Elbert County, have applied for variances from the state to open some businesses sooner, there is no date given for when restaurants might be able to open at full capacity.

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