Despite loosened restrictions, local restaurant keeps dining room closed

Panino's Restaurant Downtown
Posted at 6:12 PM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 20:12:11-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — El Paso County restaurant owners were able to re-open their doors to indoor dining nearly four weeks ago, however some owners are still choosing to keep their dining rooms closed.

Bobby Lashwood is the owner and general manager of Panino's Restaurant Downtown. Currently, the restaurant, which has been in business since 1974, is only offering outdoor dining and to-go orders.

Lashwood says, "the biggest hurdle was staff. We weren't able to get a lot of our staff back right away, so we had to hire a lot of our staff back and get them trained."

During the second indoor dining shutdown which began in November, Lashwood laid off about 75% of his staff, which he said wasn't easy.

"Whenever you own a restaurant, you are giving jobs to the community and to kids in school. Whenever we're not able to provide them work, it gets emotional," said Lashwood.

Another reason he chose to keep the dining room closed for now, is because times are uncertain in the pandemic.

"If there was going to be another spike in cases, we just wanted to be ahead of the game, and not have to lay off staff if we have to again," said Lashwood.

Other restaurants re-opened at 25% capacity when the second shutdown was lifted, while some restaurants remain entirely closed.

However, the City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County are helping in a number of ways, like promoting outdoor dining, introducing the 5-star program, and a $1,400 sales tax rebate for businesses, that was announced earlier this week.

"We thank everyone for their support through both closures," said Lashwood. "We look forward to having people inside, and being able to have that connection at our dining room tables."
Some businesses are re-opening their dining rooms in time for the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day in February. Panino's Restaurant Downtown will re-open the dining room on February 8.