Casualties of COVID: Snapshots of departed businesses A BizWest Special Report

Tightened restrictions just before Thanksgiving because of a spike in cases of COVID-19 are likely to force more businesses to shut their doors in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado — but some already have succumbed to the loss of revenue caused by declines in revenue related to the novel coronavirus.

High-profile closures attributable to the coronavirus included The Med, a popular 27-year-old restaurant owned by Walnut Restaurant Group that was closed over the summer along with its two sister eateries in Boulder, Brasserie Ten Ten and Via Perla. The owners cited challenges related to restrictions imposed on businesses because of the pandemic.

The list of COVID-related closures includes such familiar businesses as Puddle Car Wash in Boulder, Nomad Micro Pizzeria in Fort Collins, Village Pizza in Estes Park, multiple 24-Hour Fitness centers and the 41-year-old Gold Key Travel in Longmont. But small businesses also fell victim to the virus, including Slate Italian Eatery and Blakeman Vacuum & Sewing in Loveland.

Each closure has its own personal story. Here are a few.

ZOLO GRILL, Boulder

Serving up Southwestern-style food for 26 years, Zolo Grill was a popular spot for business lunches and romantic dinners. As of Nov. 25, however, the Big Red F Restaurant Group’s first restaurant was to shut down.

Zolo, at 2525 Arapahoe Ave. in the Village Shopping Center, was ahead of its time in the farm-to-table realm as chef-owner Dave Query cultivated relationships with area farmers. Query’s company would grow to include several locations of Jax Fish House and Post Brewing Co. as well as Centro Mexican Kitchen, Lola Coastal Mexican and the West End Tavern. But it all started with Zolo.

Query told BizWest the closure was “an unavoidable decision” that came as a result of the pandemic, even though landlord Tom Gart had tried to work with the restaurant to keep it open. He thanked the customers who supported Zolo, but saved his fondest thoughts for his workers.

“Many of our core employees who worked with us for 10, 15, and 20-plus years started at Zolo,” he wrote. “Every single one of you gave us so much credibility, every single day that you decided to show up to work. I stand in gratitude with a deep curtsy to you all.”

STATE FARM, Greeley

Those who call Jake from State Farm at 3 a.m. can rest assured he’s very likely working from home. In his khakis, of course.

State Farm Insurance Co. planned to abandon its physical office space in west Greeley as well as a dozen others around the country, instead adopting a fully work-from-home employment model as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As recently as 2018, the Bloomington, Illinois-based company had leased three buildings in the campus at 1555 Promontory Circle that housed about 1,100 workers.

“Most employees assigned to these locations have been working from home since March and will continue to do so,” State Farm spokeswoman Gina Morss-Fischer told BizWest in an email. “As a company, maintaining flexibility in how and where we work is just one of the many ways we can better serve customers.”

Mark Bradley, managing broker at Realtec Commercial Real Estate Services Inc. in Greeley, told BizWest that the closure wasn’t unexpected.

“What COVID’s done is accelerated what was going to happen over the next 10 years anyway, in retail,” he said. “The same thing has happened in office. Maybe it’s just happening sooner than it would have anyway because we’ve all gotten smart on how to work virtually …”

VINO GIU, Estes Park

Opened in April 2019 at 207 Park Lane, overlooking a downtown park, Vino Giú was an elegant café serving wines from around the world, chocolates, artisan cheeses, charcuterie and a water bar adorned with fresh fruits, flowers and herbs. Its name means “Wine Down” in Italian, and it was designed as a place to “wind down.”

Vino Giu frequently gave back to its community, co-sponsoring open-air concerts in the park as well as contributing to the Estes Park Board of Realtors’ scholarship fund.

But the springtime shutdown of Estes Park’s overnight accommodations as well as neighboring Rocky Mountain National Park was too sour a goblet to swallow.

“I’m sad to say but Vino Giu is officially closed,” owner Catalena wrote on the café’s Facebook page. “The COVID situation really took a toll on our business and ability to keep our doors open. … Thank you for allowing us to create wonderful memories and incredible experiences with you.

“It’s a hard decision to walk away from everything I have poured my heart and soul into over the last two years,” she wrote, “and I’m slowly climbing the high road right now.”

THE ARTICULATE, Fort Collins

Co-working spaces had soared in popularity in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado in recent years, but the COVID-19 pandemic triggered drop-offs in membership as people shifted to working from home. That’s what did in The Articulate, a 9,000-square-foot venue that for four years had provided a workspace and photo studio space at 324 Jefferson St. in Old Town Fort Collins. Its doors closed Oct. 31.

The Articulate was opened in 2016 by photographer Patrick Edmiston, owner of PHOCO, a photography and videography business at the same location. He previously had opened another co-working space, The Downtown Artery, which catered to artists; it closed in November 2019.

At its peak, The Articulate had about 75 members. It fought to survive this year by offering shorter-term leases, as well as suggesting on its Facebook page to parents with children in pandemic learning pods that the sanitized space with fiber optic connections might be a good option.

“We have spent the last few months thinking outside the box and adjusting our space and protocols to continue to make co-working safe, fun and productive for everyone,” the Facebook entry stated. But it wasn’t enough.

TANGERINE, Longmont

Owner Alec Schuler had tried to keep his brightly hued breakfast-and-lunch eatery at 379 Main St. — one of three in Boulder County — open amid declining sales, but when Paycheck Protection Program money ran out, he had a hard decision to make.

“We floated [through April and May] due to PPP money. Now it’s gone,” Schuler told BizWest in June. “I need to refocus on Boulder and Lafayette and cut the one that’s bleeding the most.”

Schuler hopes to reopen the downtown Longmont restaurant if sales go back to near normal at the other locations, pointing out that he still owns the building.

Schular opened the Longmont location in 2019 after Steven and Susan Carlson decided to close Sun Rose Café there after nine years. The building dates back to the 1880s and had housed drug stores, a J.C. Penney clothing store and a newsstand.

It offered some unique menu items crafted by Schuler, including a trout benedict.

When all three locations were opened, they employed “a little more than 100,” Schuler said. “Considering how much we sell, that’s a high ratio of employees to sales compared with an average business.”

Schuler also closed his Arugula restaurant in northeast Boulder, which had been in business since 2009.