The Main Casualty of This Weekend’s Wind Storm: Restaurants

BY Linnea Covington

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Luckily people and businesses were safe during the wind storm this past weekend, though all was not peaceful in the Boulder restaurant scene. Because of the weather we saw casualties in the form of restaurant sales, spoiled food, and employees missing the normal weekend pay. 

“The lost top-line revenue is about $50,000 to $60,000,” said restaurateur Bobby Stucky, whose Frasca Food & Wine and Pizzeria Alberico in Boulder both lost power. “The labor is the crusher, you lose all that work put into producing for the night, the food prep and all that.”

The power went out around 3 p.m. on Saturday, affecting about 55,000 homes and businesses, primarily those in Boulder County. The reason? Xcel Energy wanted to preemptively prevent the potential of an out-of-control wildfire due to strong winds and low humidity across the Front Range.

white bowl with fried food
No one got to enjoy arancini from Pizzeria Alberico this weekend. | Photo by Linnea Covington

On social media closure warnings began popping up. Barchetta posted a picture of a paper plate taped to its door (pictured above) reading, “They killed our power : ( closed unit [sic] 12 tom at least…” The next day another post by the pizza shop lamented closure, as well as a warning that power might not be on until later on Monday. 

For Eric Skokan, chef-owner of Bramble & Hare in Boulder, the situation crushed the restaurant as it lost thousands of dollars in food. Not only is this the only spot the chef has, but he grows, harvests, and raises the majority of the food for it. So if it’s not being served to diners, there’s nowhere else for it to go.

“That power went out on a Saturday meant we had tons of food prepped for a busy night, so much food,” said Skokan. “All of it had to be tossed once the cooler temps rose above 41-degrees for more than four hours.”

For some affected by the outage there were places to save some of the goods. Little Piggy Hospitality founder Hosea Rosenberg, who runs Blackbelly and Santo in Boulder, was able to tap one of their ranchers for help. Thanks to Buckner Family Farm, many of Blackbelly’s perishable goods were kept in the Buckner’s refrigerated truck. For Stucky, who runs Tavernetta and Sunday Vinyl in Denver, some things could be saved through his other restaurants. Though, he said, a lot of the highly-perishable foods were just lost.  Unfortunately for Skokan, there was only one thing to do. 

“We packed everything we could and brought it out to the farm to feed the pigs,” he lamented. “Happy pigs, sad farmer and chef.”

white table with tomato tart
Items like this tomato tart from last fall are seasonal and highly perishable at Bramble & Hare in Boulder. | Photo by Linnea Covington

During a time when independent restaurants are struggling and closing, the loss of a busy weekend hits hard. Stucky mentioned his costs won’t be covered by insurance. Skokan is still trying to find out if there will be any compensation. While everyone is glad no fires or disasters happened, the consensus feels more could have been done to prepare businesses for the power outage. 

“It’s important for Xcel to realize not all businesses are created equal and to understand in a restaurant-heavy community like Boulder, these businesses have different levers to get open than a retail shop or bank,” said Stucky, who had just gotten off a call with the city and power company. “Xcel said they had 500 people working on it, but we use 100 people to run Frasca and Alberico, so maybe they need to step up and invest in the same quotient of labor like we do in the restaurant business.”

At the very least, he added, they could have given more of a warning. Everyone knew the wind storm was coming, and no one should have been left wondering if they were in the power grid Xcel planned to shut down. While it’s too late now, Stucky said he hopes they learned from the mistake.  

As for helping these establishments, make this week the time to go out and get dinner.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linnea Covington

Linnea Covington is the managing editor of DiningOut. She comes to us with a long background in food, restaurant and drinks journalism. Over the last two decades she’s written for tons of publications including Denver Post, Washington Post, Forbes Travel Guide, 5280 Magazine, New York Magazine, New York Times, Time Out New York and more.

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