Patrons sit at tables outside of Vesper Lounge in Denver's Governor's Park neighborhood on Oct. 30, 2020. The restaurant is one of several on E. 7th Ave. that have expanded into the street to stay open during the pandemic. 

The Denver City Council unanimously passed several resolutions in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic during the Council’s meeting Monday evening.

Among the approved resolutions was an agreement between Denver and the Colorado Restaurant Foundation to launch a relief grant program for Denver residents working in the food and hospitality industries.

Denver will now provide $860,000 for the grant program to run through the end of 2021.

Laura Shunk, president of CRF, said the foundation has already provided assistance to 3,200 workers throughout Colorado. Nearly 100,000 Coloradans have lost jobs in the restaurant industry since COVID-19 began.

“The hospitality industry and its employees have been completely devastated by COVID-19,” Shunk said. “This grant program will help hundreds of restaurant and lodging employees obtain assistance they need in a time of immense hardship."

The Council also extended Denver’s emergency occupancy program by another month, providing extra shelter in hotels for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.

The program provides 145 rooms for shelter space within the Ramada by Wyndham hotel at 1150 E. Colfax Ave. The extension gives $1.4 million to the managing company Keys of Denver Hospitality, bringing the contract to nearly $2.5 million.

This program is in response to COVID-19 social distancing requirements causing Denver’s shelter capacity to be cut by 56%, or about 1,200 beds, according to Britta Fisher, Denver’s chief housing officer.

“We always try to meet the needs,” Fisher said of the city’s COVID-19 housing efforts. “We continue to make sure we have enough shelter to meet the demands of people seeking shelter.”

Initially begun in late 2020, the program is now scheduled to expire on Feb. 28 with the option of extending the end date on a 30-day basis through the end of June 2021.

The Council also approved a contract with Brothers Redevelopment, Inc. for the administration of the city’s Temporary Rental and Utility Assistance Program.

The program offers resources to Denver residents facing financial hardships to help prevent eviction by providing funds for rent or utility payments.

The new contract allocated over $1.5 million to Brothers Redevelopment, Inc. to administer the program through the end of 2021.

Finally, the Council once again extended Denver’s declaration of local disaster from Feb. 22 to March 22.

“Out of an abundance of caution, City Council intends to further extend the current declaration,” the resolution said. “This emergency declaration is necessary for the city to continue to receive federal public assistance funds for emergency protective measures.”

The local disaster declaration also allows Denver to expedite time-sensitive processes including procuring services that provide shelter for residents in need and purchasing protective equipment for Denver’s essential workers.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock first filed the local disaster declaration on March 12, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


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