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In Colorado, weather-weary operators and diners want snow days to go away

In Colorado, weather-weary operators and diners want snow days to go away

I’m sick of snow, and I’m not the only one who is. My whining may not elicit much sympathy from readers in the Midwest or Northeast, who are accustomed to long, frigid winters, but those of us in Colorado are just not used to this.

I’ve bragged many times about lunching on a restaurant’s patio in balmy 60-degree or even 70-degree weather in January. But this winter, we’ve been hammered with more than 60 inches of snow, making it difficult to get to restaurants, let alone dine outside.

The first snowfall, which turned into the Dec. 20 blizzard, is still on my backyard deck. It’s mostly ice now, after days of freezing temperatures. Denver’s streets also are icy and slippery.

“It’s like driving on the moon,” chef and restaurant owner Christian “Goose” Sorenson told me when I called to grouse about the weather.

I reached Sorenson on his cell phone as he was shoveling the mountain of snow in the parking lot of his Denver restaurant, Solera.

Solera, an upscale neighborhood restaurant, has a lovely patio, which, of course, is closed for the winter. Sorenson even had to shut down his restaurant for two days during the December storms. He figures he lost about $20,000 in business—a tough loss for an independent operator.

But he says he’s optimistic about recovering his losses. After days of hunkering down in their homes, customers have gotten cabin fever. Solera has been packed most weekends lately, he reports.

The restaurant’s weekly happy-hour wine-tasting event also has remained steady, said Sorenson, who e-mails customers about the featured wine.

“There could be hurricane-force winds and we’d still be full by 5:15 p.m. every Wednesday,” he said.

Trattoria on Pearl in Boulder, Colo., also has taken advantage of e-mail marketing to survive the storm.

“It’s paying our bills,” said Guillermo Casarrubias, who owns the one-year-old Italian restaurant with his wife, Sara, and chef Daniel Cofrades.

When the weather is bad, the Casarrubias’ declare a “Snow Day” and send out e-mails to more than 1,000 customers in their data bank. Customers who call in orders get a 15-percent discount on their purchase and free delivery.

The delivery service the restaurant normally uses is not available in bad weather, however. So who is running the orders to customers?

“I do it myself,” Casarrubias said. “Or one of our servers will help, and sometimes even the chef.”

I’m on Trattoria’s e-mail list, but Denver is outside of their delivery area. So every time I receive one of their e-mails, I launch into another whining session to anyone who will listen.

So how much snow have we had? We’ve had a Snow Day every week for the past seven weeks.

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