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How Coronavirus Fears Are Affecting Restaurants in Denver and Beyond

Here is a running list of stories and news updates about how the Denver restaurant community is reacting to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Also included are some interesting stories from around the world about how the industry is grappling with the new normal.

Updated Mar 20 2020, 9:03 pm MT

Denver, Colorado

DENVER RESTAURANT TAKEOUT / DELIVERY MAPS BY NEIGHBORHOOD

A few food blogger friends and I created maps so people could find local restaurants that are still open for business during the coronavirus shutdown.

Also, there is a map that plots out discounts and offers that Denver metro area restaurants and markets are offering to those in the service industry, restaurant/food workers, healthcare industry, people over 60 years of age, and the community at large during the coronavirus/COVID-19 shutdown.

Jeff Osaka calls for local and state government action to help restaurant workers

Opinion: I’m the owner of seven Denver restaurants. Coronavirus just forced me to lay off 200 people. by Jeff Osaka for The Colorado Sun

By nature our industry attracts the most generous people. People who give their time and money to nourish lives, to provide memories of meals out and time spent around a table with friends and family.

We are a humble breed, but now it’s time to get out from behind our aprons and ask for help, not for a handout. We need our local and state leaders to get behind us when we need it the most. We are small business owners and taxpayers — 250,000-plus in Colorado, to be exact — which should speak volumes.

Major layoffs follow in Colorado’s restaurant and hospitality communities as a result of mandated closures

Added Mar 17, 2020
Denver restaurants lay off employees by the hundreds following coronavirus bar, restaurant shutdownby Josie Sexton for The Denver Post

The larger restaurant industry in Colorado accounts for more than 294,000 jobs, according to the Colorado Restaurant Association, or 10% of statewide employment. By 10 a.m. Tuesday, the state received about 6,800 attempted unemployment insurance filings.

Frasca’s Bobby Stuckey breaks down why most restaurant owners will not be able to collect insurance money due to Covid-19 closures

Added Mar 17, 2020
Colorado hospitality industry leader, Bobby Stuckey took to Instagram to call out why many independent restaurant owners will suffer a huge financial blow due to the mandated restaurant closures. The co-founder of the critically lauded Frasca Food and Wine, Tavernetta, and the recently opened Sunday Vinyl, detailed his own experience of finding out that his company’s business interruption insurance will not cover losses due to coronavirus closures due to exclusion to loss from a virus or bacteria submitted by the insurance industry in 2006.

Unfortunately, this is not a unique story. Most insurers do not cover losses due to bacteria, viruses or communicable diseases.

View this post on Instagram

This will be my last Frico to run to a guest for a minimum of one month and maybe longer. Our truly amazing @govofco made the right decision to close restaurants in Colorado for a minimum of one month. And possibly longer. I am so thankful for the hospitality industry all the great people I get to work with and all the great guests I get to take care of. In Colorado 285,000 people are restaurant workers or 10% of the workforce. Of those restaurants that they work in 75% are independently owned. Here is where it gets even tougher. Most of us independent restaurant owners have been paying our Business interruption for decades only to find out yesterday that the insurance industry submitted in 2006 a exclusion to loss from a virus or Bacteria. So none of us will receive any help from the insurance companies they we have been paying to. I am asking for Washington DC on both sides of the aisle to work swiftly to assist with this. The country may lose a craft and a industry called the restaurant worker in the next two months. Please @sencorygardner @speakerpelosi President Trump @stevenmnuchin1 and everyone on both sides we need you all to work together to assist a hard working industry that has been threatened by the ravages of COVID -19. Thank you everyone for your time and I look forward to bussing your table once we get done with this. #covid_19 #hospitality #hospitalian #mastersommelier #inthistogether #restaurantlife #coloradorestaurantassociation

A post shared by Bobby Stuckey (@bobbystuckeyms) on

Sage Restaurant Concepts launches “Keep Calm and Carry Out” initiative to raise money for Feeding America

Added Mar 17, 2020
Keep Calm and Carry Out Helps Restaurants Feed Patrons Safely, Support Food Banksby Allyson Reedy for 5280 Magazine

For every carry-out order placed with a participating restaurant—which not only includes the Sage restaurants of Urban Farmer, Kachina Cantina, and the Corner Office, but also other restaurants who wish to participate and commit to the donations—one dollar will go to Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks that are working overtime to help vulnerable families affected by COVID-19.

Denverite follows Dio Mio’s story through the coronavirus pandemic

Added Mar 17, 2020
Let’s catch up with some Denver restaurant owners now that the coronavirus pandemic has closed their dining rooms by David Sachs for Denverite

“We’re just hoping to break even or lose as little money as possible,” White said Monday. “It’s almost like we’re just running a nonprofit for the employees we’ll still have.”

White and Figura can’t afford to pay everyone and stay afloat — news they had just broken to a server on Monday. He’d been with them for two years, having started as a dishwasher.

“He’s a blue-collar guy,” Figura said. “It’s kind of like there’s not much we can do to support him unless the government gets involved, so that kind of leaves him out to dry.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Support local restaurants, bars, and markets with delivery, takeout, and gift card orders

While all Colorado restaurants and bars are closed for dine-in service, delivery, drive-thru, and takeout are still allowed and are the new normal of “eating out” for us Coloradans. Follow #coloradocurbside to find out the services local eateries will be offering during this time.⁠⠀
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Your favorite spots need you more than ever. If you are in a position to be able to order out, please support our local businesses by ringing them up and placing an order for a meal this week. Then do the same next week, and the week after, etc. until this is all over.⁠⠀
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Now is the perfect time to get a meal from that restaurant you’ve been meaning to try out and an opportunity to order a comforting dish from a place you’ve loved for years.⁠ You can also buy gift cards directly from the restaurant to use at a later time.
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I know many of you may have concerns about your own financial future and are unable to spend money on restaurant food right now. But you can help these businesses in other ways – like promoting them on social media by sharing a great experience you had dining there in the past or letting people know what their current service offerings are.⁠⠀
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I am continuing to update this page with stories from the region and information you should know about our dining community’s response and will be updating with lists of my favorite restaurants from which you can order from.

Take care and stay safe and healthy,

Laura

Colorado restaurants and bars ordered to stop on-premises consumption for 30 days

Added Mar 16, 2020
The state of Colorado has officially ordered all restaurants and bars to close dine-in operations, effective March 17, 2020, at 8 am for 30 days. In a separate order (listed below), the city of Denver will have its establishments closed for 8 weeks – until May 11, 2020 (or until further notice).

Denver Central Market pivots to operate as a grocery store

Added Mar 16, 2020
Denver Central Market in RiNo will stop serving dine-in customers due to public health concerns. Instead, DCM will now focus on serving as a grocery store to the community, with vendors selling staples like bread, meat, milk, fresh produce and fish, and select vendors offering to-go meals.

All Denver restaurants and bars to cease in-person dining for 8 weeks (March 17-May 11, 2020)

Added Mar 16, 2020
By order of Mayor Hancock, all restaurants and bars in Denver must cease in-person dining options starting at 8 am on Tuesday, March 17 until May 11, 2020 until further notice. Delivery, drive-thru, and to-go operations are permitted to continue. Start at 3:17 for the announcement.

#ColoradoCurbside being used to alert diners to new service options

Added Mar 15, 2020
5280 Magazine food writer, Denise Mickelsen is urging Colorado chefs to use the hashtag #ColoradoCurbside to let the community know what alternative dining options the are launching to respond to coronavirus. Follow the hashtag to start getting the updates in your Insta feeds!

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9xuuV6FKvP/

Edgewater Public Market and Rosetta Hall announce temporarily closures

Added Mar 15, 2020
This evening, Edgewater Public Market announced a temporary closure of their space starting on Sunday, March 15, and lasting at least one week, with a re-opening date to be determined based on recommendations from local and State authorities. In the meantime, the space will undergo a thorough deep clean.

Individual businesses that operate in the market, such as Konjo Ethiopian Food, have announced the availability of curbside pickup and others will announce their plans in the coming days. Be sure to check their individual websites and social accounts for updates.

Boulder food market Rosetta Hall also announced they will be closed until further notice and according to a post on their official Instagram account, they have established “a $50,000 fund to pay every employee in the Hall for the next two weeks so they can take care of their immediate needs as well as those of their families” and will assist staff with getting access to healthcare if needed.

As the call for citizens to stay at home grows stronger, food halls are among the first to turn away patrons

Added Mar 15, 2020
Some Denver restaurants curbing service amid talk of 14-day nationwide shutdown by Josie Sexton for The Denver Post

The closure of restaurants and bars in Denver and across the country appears imminent following comments made over the weekend by the U.S. government’s top disease expert regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing.

Downtown Denver King Soopers employee tests positive for COVID-19

Added Mar 15, 2020
Colorado King Soopers Employee Tests Positive For COVID-19from Denver CBS4

King Soopers officials say an employee at a store on Chestnut Place, near 20th and Wewatta Streets in Denver, tested positive for COVID-19. Officials say the employee last worked at the store on March 6.

From Instagram “Dinner parties” to reduced prices for industry workers, area restaurants focus on fostering community

Added Mar 15, 2020
The Front Range Restaurant Community Steps Up In the Face of Coronavirusby Denise Mickelsen for 5280 Magazine

Many other area restaurants are finding creative ways to offer help—and meals—to families dealing with school closures and fellow hospitality workers who are unemployed or working less due to the virus.

Eschewing big box stores in favor of stocking up on goods at local stores and markets helps support Denver businesses

Added Mar 15, 2020
How to Support Local Businesses and Creatives in the Time of the Coronavirus by Josie Russell, Cori Anderson and Brittany Werges for 303 Magazine

Well-intentioned and well-studied efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus — such as social distancing — have led to a decrease in foot traffic, and local businesses suffer for it most severely. In addition, hunkering down at home may compel folks to do most of their purchasing through the incredibly convenient Amazon services. The avoidance of public spaces and the dominance of Amazon is a pretty formidable one-two punch, and we don’t want local businesses to come out of this pandemic defeated.

Two RiNo restaurants offer free toilet paper as a part of dinner service

Added Mar 15, 2020
Tired of diners covertly stealing toilet paper from their bathrooms, on March 14, both Super Mega Bien and sister restaurant Work & Class tried bring a smile to the faces of customers by kicking off a half-kidding promotion where guests receive a roll of TP at the end of the meal (until supplies last).

One such recipient was Brandi Shigley, who ate at Super Mega Bien yesterday amidst a packed happy hour crowd and shared this photo of the toilet paper coming with her check on her Instagram account:

Denver’s food delivery scene, and the opportunities for drivers, have been thriving as people increase self-isolation measures

Added Mar 15, 2020
Food delivery gigs abound in COVID-era Denverby Kevin Beaty for Denverite

He estimated food delivery requests are as much as double the normal volume. And he’s noticed his customers have used his services because they’re either sick or afraid to get sick. Some have sent him messages that they may be contagious and asked him to leave their meals on the ground by their doors. One guy said he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was quarantined at home.

Coperta offers deal to promote gift card purchases

Added Mar 15, 2020
One of my favorite Italian restaurants in Denver, Coperta, is currently offering a gift card deal – buy $100 in gift cards, get an additional $20. The restaurant is also offering delivery and to-go options.

Stanley Marketplace and Broadway Market temporarily closed. Stanley Marketplace to launch a curbside pickup program.

Added Mar 15, 2020
The normally bustling food halls of Stanley Marketplace in Aurora and Broadway Market in the Golden Triangle/Cap Hill neighborhoods of Denver will be quiet until further notice. As of the evening of March 14th, both are temporarily closed to the public in order to promote social distancing.

Stanley Marketplace, which was mandated by the city of Aurora to close its doors, has announced that some of their businesses will still be making deliveries, and on Tuesday, March 17, the marketplace will launch a “Stanley To Go” curbside pickup station on the southeast plaza that will run daily from 11 am – 7 pm. Details of how the curbside operations will work (order, pick-up protocol) are still being sorted out. Further details can be found on the Stanley Marketplace Facebook page.

Participating restaurants that will still have pickup options are Comida, Rolling Smoke BBQ at Stanley Marketplace, Sweet Cow Ice Cream, Denver Biscuit Company, Logan House Coffee Company, Rosenberg’s Bagels and Delicatessen, Annette, Misaki at Stanley, The Juniper Pig, and Cheluna Brewing Company. Mondo Market Colorado and Create Cooking School are not confirmed as participating as of yet.

Update Mar 16, 2020: No delivery program or other operations will be offered at Broadway Market.

Hapa Sushi introduces “Social Seating” dine-in policy

Added Mar 14, 2020
Hapa Sushi, a local Japanese restaurant group with operations in Denver, Boulder, and Greenwood Village is responding to coronavirus concerns by introducing “Social Seating” at its four locations. Patrons can expect neighboring tables to deliberately be left empty in an effort to minimize potential contact between diners. The company is encouraging guests to make dining reservations in advance due to the limited seating and bar space for waiting.

Additionally, the restaurant is emphasizing its delivery and to-go order capabilities, working with their delivery providers to send their food out in tamper-proof bags. Their delivery partner in Boulder, Hungry Buffs, will offer free delivery to customers in the area during this time.

In a message made available to Hapa Sushi employees yesterday, March 13, owner Mark Van Grack acknowledged that “some businesses will not survive this pandemic” but the 20-year-old company feels equipped to deal with the situation and make any necessary adjustments to keep operations running.

Colorado grocers say not to panic-buy and hoard food. The supply chain isn’t broken. Supermarkets will be restocked in the coming weeks.

Added Mar 14, 2020
Denver shoppers snap up meat, veggies and pasta as grocers urge restraintby Conrad Swanson for The Denver Post

Customers should resist the temptation to hoard, [Chris] Howes [president of the Colorado Retail Council] said. Someone else could be in dire need.

Comal Heritage Food Incubator and Avanti F&B are temporarily closed

Added Mar 14, 2020
In an email to its community sent on March 13, Jules Kelty, Executive Director of Focus Points announced that their popular RiNo restaurant, Comal Heritage Food Incubator, will be closed from Monday, March 16, to Friday, March 27th “to ensure the safety of staff, participants and Comal’s devoted customers.”

Avanti Food & Beverage has also temporarily closed their doors as of 4 pm Friday, 3/13 and will do a deep clean this weekend. The hall will reassess the situation on Monday to decide if they can re-open to the public. In the meantime, individual restaurants in the hall may be open for delivery service only. No staff at Avanti F&B have been identified as having COVID-19. The post on the official Avanti F&B Instagram account says this is being done as a precaution due to the large volume of people that visit the space.

If you guys are wondering about Lea Jane’s Hot Chicken (the restaurant I featured in my Instagram post the other day), as of now they are not available for delivery service since they were not set up with a third-party vendor at the time the announcement was made. In a message from the team, “We hope to reopen soon, while closely monitoring the situation and watching out for everyone’s health and safety. We will also pay our employees wages during the close this weekend to make sure they are also financially taken care of, due to the sudden closure.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9sLebeFESR/

Related:

Denver-based PR firm creates hashtag campaign in support of local restaurants

Added Mar 13, 2020
B Public Relations, a local PR firm with headquarters in Denver with a number of food industry clients, has started the hashtag #raiseuprestaurants to urge locals to support the hospitality community by purchasing restaurant gift cards to use at a later date.

Denver restaurants are banning eating in, starting up delivery programs, and ramping up health measures

Added Mar 13, 2020
Is it still OK to eat at Denver restaurants during the coronavirus outbreak? Yes, and here’s why.by Josie Sexton for The Denver Post

“And then last night,” [Jason] Burgett [of the Wooden Spoon] said, “when everything escalated, well, in the food industry, not all of us have health insurance. So to keep us all safe and working, we decided to make everything to-go … So there’s not people sitting literally two feet from each other.”

A new food stall deals with a slowdown in traffic in its first few weeks of business

Added Mar 12, 2020
I did my own Instagram post about how coronavirus fears were affecting a local restaurant food stall that recently opened up at Avanti F&B here in Denver:

Guys, let’s get real. I understand that many of you are thinking twice about going out to eat and I will admit, I am doing the same. ⁠However, I’d like to take this post to highlight how this is affecting one local business.⁠⠀
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Earlier this week I was invited to visit @avantifandb’s newest food concept, @leajaneshotchicken. [comped] It was a beautiful, warm day and the upstairs area was packed with people sitting outside. ⁠⠀
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As I hovered by the counter as the Lea Jane’s folks were working on my order, I chatted with one of the chefs about how business was going. He told me when they opened up 4 weeks ago in late Feb it was gangbusters – clearing their supplier out of chicken thighs in their first week. However, as concern around coronavirus has gotten greater, business has gotten slower – a challenge for a fledgling business in their first weeks of operation. ⁠⠀
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Despite this, they are keeping strong, tweaking their recipes and adapting to their new space. They’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on their signature hot chicken (the only complaint from some folks that it is “too hot” – sorry, but if you’re ordering hot chicken, I think you gotta be ready to handle the heat) and good word of mouth, but I intuited that they would love to see more people swing by to try them out.⁠⠀
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And it’s a shame because their chicken is delicious. My husband said it was some of the best fried chicken he’s ever had. The Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich, with onion ranch and pickled slaw stacked between two thick slices of grilled white bread, is an enormous handful⁠. (PRO TIP: Get a side of Potato Wedges to complete the meal.) The also excellent Chicken and Waffles could feed two people. And Fried Chicken Deviled Eggs are overflowing hard-boiled halves filled with a creamy, spicy mixture made complete by the inclusion of off-the-bone chopped hot chicken meat.⁠⠀
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I believe 100% that everyone should be prioritizing their health and safety (and those of their families, friends, and communities). That said, if your schedule (and your comfort level) allows you to visit a local restaurant (even if it means doing take out), I know they would really appreciate your support.⁠⠀

Asian business feel the effects of xenophobia around the coronavirus outbreak

Added Mar 12, 2020
Gov. Polis visits Asian businesses in Denver as coronavirus concerns spread by Esteban L. Hernandez for Denverite

Before visiting storefronts, Polis dined at Star Kitchen, a dim sum and seafood restaurant whose owner told Denverite last week that it was seeing fewer customers due to coronavirus concerns.

Stories from across the US

The supply chain remains intact, but food providers make preparations, anticipating long-term demand

Added Mar 15, 2020
There Is Plenty of Food in the Country by Michael Corkery, David Yaffe-Bellany, Amelia Nierenberg and Quoctrung Bui for The New York Times

Algorithms, perfected by Amazon, can pinpoint exactly how much inventory a warehouse or particular store must keep on hand during a typical week, right down to the soup can. But no algorithm could predict this extraordinary moment, leading to widespread out-of-stocks of hundreds of household necessities.

The young and healthy should avoid creating crowds at bars and restaurants in order to protect the most vulnerable in our communities

Added Mar 14, 2020
Please, Don’t Go Out to the Bars Tonight by Charlie Warzel, an opinion writer at The New York Times

Continuing the weekend tradition of packing the bars is selfish and reckless during this pandemic. It will speed up the spread of the virus, increasing the suffering for older and more vulnerable people and for the medical workers who will be caring for them. Though the virus appears dramatically less fatal for those under 50, younger, healthier people can still contract the virus, not show symptoms and infect at-risk populations.

Doctor recommends wiping down takeout containers before eating

Added Mar 14, 2020
Is It Safe to Dine Out at Restaurants During the Coronavirus Pandemic? by Andrea Strong for Food & Wine

“You should feel comfortable ordering food in,” says Dr. Amler. As we have discussed before, scrubbing of hands and wiping down surfaces with a bleach wipe is a very effective way of killing the virus. Given that it can survive up to 3 days on stainless steel and plastic surfaces, Dr. Amler recommends wiping down your delivery containers before eating and obviously washing hands after you have done so and before eating.

New York food critic opines on his journalistic responsibilities during the pandemic

Added Mar 13, 2020
What Is a Restaurant Critic’s Job in a Time of Social Distancing?” by Adam Platt for Grub Street

These are delicate times for those of us in the restaurant and food-writing trade, especially those of us who are a certain age, and who have subsisted on the unhealthiest of diets for far too long. The restaurant business hangs on a slim economic thread in the best of times, and in times of crisis, like we’re in now, the instinct of my little fraternity of scribblers and gasbags has always been to rally the faithful, and to send diners out into the bars and and dining rooms to support our favorite industry.

If you do eat out, just say no to self-service buffets (and other tips)

Added Mar 12, 2020
The Safest Ways to Dine Out During the Coronavirus Pandemic (If You Must) by Jenny G. Zhang for Eater

  • Some practical, good tips for limiting your risk when choosing to dine out amid COVID-19 scares.

Restaurant workers are among the hardest hit as eateries adapt to empty dining rooms and health care concerns come to the forefront

Added Mar 12, 2020
Cancellations, Sick Leave, and Takeout: How Food Businesses Nationwide Are Handling Coronavirus by The Bon Appétit Staff

  • This link is updated regularly with new stories. Thanks to Comino Food Stories for the recommendation!

On Tuesday night we sent out an email to our customers because we’re trying to calm people, to take things seriously and show what we’re doing to provide an environment that’s still safe to come and enjoy. But our reservations have been reduced by 60 percent.

Some food industry workers will be forced to take “unpaid leave” as restaurants enact temporary closures

Added Mar 12, 2020
Coronavirus Fears Leave NYC Restaurant Workers Particularly Vulnerable by Chris Crowley for New York Mag/Grub Street

East Village bistro Virginia’s also announced a temporary closing “until further notice.” In a memo sent to staff, employees were told they’d be compensated through the end of the pay week and to take any paid time off they have, after which they’ll go into “unpaid leave” status.

Restaurants are worried that they will need to make big layoffs

Added Mar 12, 2020
Cancellations may be just the beginning for restaurants By Kim Severson and Julia Moskin for The New York Times

“We are in crisis mode,” said Rocky Cirino, managing director of Altamarea Group, which has 10 restaurants, five in New York and the others in New Jersey, Washington, Dubai and Istanbul. “Drastic layoffs may be inevitable.”

Popular Chinese restaurants in Brooklyn have been forced to close down after diners stayed away en masse

Added Mar 12, 2020
Coronavirus fear shutters four Sunset Park Asian restaurantsby John Alexander for Brooklyn Daily Eagle

As of Wednesday, March 11, four of the most popular restaurants in the neighborhood have been forced to close.

East Harbor Seafood Palace, Bamboo Garden, Affable and Park Asia are among the first major closures in the neighborhood, following weeks of declining business due to fears propelled by the spread of the coronavirus, although none of the confirmed cases in New York City were from people who came from China.

Owners point out their paid sick policies to ease customers’ concerns

Added Mar 12, 2020
How Austin’s Restaurant Industry Is Taking Precautions Against Coronavirus by Nadia Chaudhury for Eater Austin

Without guaranteed income, service industry workers tend to work if they’re sick, even in the face of a health crisis, such as this. “If folks knew that our employees were paid a proper wage and paid to stay home when they’re sick, there would be a lot more confidence that going out wasn’t an assault on your personal hygiene,” Orman said.

International stories

When panic buying gives you milk, make an ancient cheese-like dessert

Japanese People Are Reviving a 1,000-Year-Old Dish Because of Coronavirus by Jelisa Castrodale for Munchies

…in Japan, rumors that dairy farmers could lose their jobs due to a virus-related milk surplus have caused well-meaning residents to buy more milk than they know what to do with.

As a result, people have been making a milk-based food that hasn’t really been eaten in the country for the past 1,000 years or so.

Shanghai bar now delivers made-to-order cocktails to customers’ homes

Added Mar 12, 2020
Running a Bar During a Pandemic by Naomi Tomky for Eater

Costs now cut, Union still has to bring in some money — without having customers come in-person to the bar. “We figured since people love delivery and are bored as hell at home, why not bring the bar to them?” Online ordering and systems for having almost anything delivered to your home were already ubiquitous in China, so the infrastructure already existed: guests place their order online, and Union pours the cocktails into sanitized glass bottles, vacuum packs the garnishes, and a courier service delivers the drinks.

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