COVID restrictions like face masks and social distancing are fading

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the city would join the state move to peel back the mask order for the fully vaccinated on Sunday. He joined leaders outside the Denver Performing Arts Complex as they tried to push people to come back downtown with an initiative borrowing from the All-Star game called, “All-Star Summer.”

“What’s happened over the last 12, 14 months, really shocked our senses,” said Hancock. “You had a very vibrant, thriving downtown and then all of a sudden you have- everybody’s disappeared almost instantly.”

Now they are coming back. The Colorado Convention Center continued to be crowded with school-age volleyball players and businesses looked at the change with hope.

“It just feels like that momentum is starting and it’s really exciting to see people walking around downtown again,” said David Coonan, general manager of the Hotel Teatro down 14th Street. “I don’t think we’re worried about the demand coming back, it’s being able to be prepared for it.”

Like many restaurants and hotels, he’s had difficulty with staffing. There are multiple job openings at Teatro. He’s unable to keep the hotel’s restaurant open as often as he’d like.

“We’re currently closed two days a week because we don’t have the staff for it.”

Bringing the downtown back after the pandemic is a puzzle of changing circumstances.

“There have been huge buildings built. New hotels, new art all implemented in the last year alone,” said Tami Door, President and CEO of Downtown Denver Partnership.

The partnership tracks pedestrians, workers and visitors. Numbers are up. Door says Denver is still in demand as a destination for business.

“The pandemic has caused a lot of companies, just as individuals to think about what they want for their future. And we’re seeing time and time again, they’re picking Denver.”

And there’s growth for many companies already here she said. But there’s also a shift of workers out of offices brought on by the pandemic.

The change in business is another change hotels like the Teatro are dealing with.

“The weekends have been fairly consistent,” said Coonan. “And I think the state of Colorado is a big draw. People coming in for events, they’ll tag on a day or two on the front or the back end of the event.”

Weekend occupancies have been solid. But not the whole week.

“I think the other piece of it missing still and it will take a little bit to come back is that business travel… So that individual business traveler who’s on the road and fills up your hotels Sunday through Wednesday night.”

That picture is far from clear as the city fills in again.

“We do not have any true picture of what is going to happen with a hybrid of remote work. I believe very confidently that it is going to take at least another 36 months for companies to pilot different ways for work,” said Door.

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