Lauren Neal rushed outside as a gust of wind threatened to topple the patio umbrellas near her dozen or so customers. She wound up the black-and-white striped canopies then headed back inside to an …
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Lauren Neal rushed outside as a gust of wind threatened to topple the patio umbrellas near her dozen or so customers.
She wound up the black-and-white striped canopies then headed back inside to an explosion of purples, greens and oranges — a few of the many hues that abound at Rare by Grist. Murals line the walls while twinkling chandeliers and stained-glass windows cast color across the Lone Tree taproom.
On April 25, 70-degree air flowed in Rare's open garage doors. Salted pretzels steamed on their way out the kitchen to a tune of clinking glasses as bartenders prepared shaken cocktails.
Neal resumed serving up orders and seating guests, most wanting a table by the patio.
“We're definitely busier than we have been,” she said.
Business was picking up since Douglas County lifted most COVID-19 restrictions and warmer weather beckoned people outdoors.
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners voted on April 13 against continuing COVID-19 dial restrictions at the local level. The state's dial expired on April 16 and the Tri-County Health Department allowed its counties to opt out of a one-month extension it instated.
Commissioner Abe Laydon said he wanted Douglas County to “be the first county in the state to say `this pandemic is over'” following the vote.
Some cheered the move, citing low death and hospitalization rates in the county. Others worried of a fourth wave as Douglas County's incidence rates continued a weeks-long uptick.
Neal was hopeful for a greater sense of normalcy moving forward.
The constant changes in COVID-19 protocols proved one of the biggest challenges during the thick of the pandemic, Neal said. So was having to let go staff in two waves of layoffs, about 20 people in total across Grist Brewing Company's three Douglas County locations.
Neal serves as bar manager for all three sites. The company has brought back more than half its laid off employees, she said. All bartenders returned, although hiring kitchen staff is proving difficult. Still, she's grateful.
“We survived, so we are all feeling pretty lucky,” she said.
Neal is confident the tap house can safely move forward without the dial system in place. Rare has a spacious main floor with high ceilings. It offers seating indoors and outdoors, with patios upstairs and on ground level.
Staff keep the garage doors open on warm and chilly days to boost circulation, and the building's ventilation system meets the 5-Star program requirements, she said. Employees sanitize heavily and abide by the state's mask mandate, which remained in place after the dial expired.
She wants the community to know, “we are still here. We are still open. We're ready for the public to come back.”
Niki Greco walked to Rare on April 25, eager to support a local business. She moved to Lone Tree from out of state amid the pandemic last May, when much of the local economy was more heavily restricted.
“Now I'm seeing everything open up,” she said.
She joined fellow Lone Tree resident Debra Hemmings Pritchard for cocktails. Both were glad to see businesses at full capacity. The women are comfortable patronizing restaurants and breweries so long as people continue taking COVID-19 precautions.
Hemmings Pritchard appreciated mask use and table spacing at Rare, and hopes the community continues vaccinating.
“Everybody has to be vaccinated,” Hemmings Pritchard said.
Reporter Elliott Wenzler contributed to this report.
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