Stacy Dominguez is a veteran in the bottle service industry, having worked five New Year’s Eves in a row at Denver nightclubs.
However, because of COVID-19 health regulations, her nightclub Purple Martini is closed indefinitely and Dominguez is losing out on the biggest earning night of the year.
“I’ve always made at least $2,000 on New Year’s Eve,” Dominguez said. “I can’t even begin to tell you … we’re taking a huge loss on this.”
Dominguez has been looking into going back to school and is working two jobs at Hooters and a dispensary to make up for lost wages from Purple Martini closing. And she is not alone.
Thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, downtown Denver’s usual New Year’s Eve celebration of bar hopping and packed streets are gone, and the industry is already reeling.
Under Denver County’s Level Red COVID-19 restrictions, indoor dining is closed and last call for alcohol sales is now 8 p.m. By 10 p.m., patrons must leave restaurants completely, hours before the ball even drops.
Clubs, bars and event venues are closed entirely.
For the few downtown nightlife businesses still open for New Year’s Eve, they’ve had to make significant adjustments.
“Our New Year’s Eve celebration is looking much different this year,” said Christy DeSiato with 54thirty, a rooftop bar and lounge above Le Méridien hotel.
This year, 54thirty is opening its bar to hotel guests only on New Year’s Eve. Even with the special access, guests are limited to groups of six, socially distanced in outdoor seating and the bar closes at 8 p.m.
With limited nightlife options, in addition to the cancellation of Denver’s annual fireworks display, there will likely be far fewer people hanging out downtown this year, only adding to the strain on local businesses.
For Blake Street Tavern, a restaurant and bar in Lower Downtown, New Year’s Eve is usually one of the biggest days of the year.
Owner Chris Fuselier said the business typically reaches its 900-person occupancy with three bars, a live band and a DJ. But this year, rather than filling balloons and ordering extra champagne, the business isn’t doing anything.
“There will be none of it. We’ve done no planning,” Fuselier said. “This will be like no New Year’s Eve we’ve ever experienced.”
Fuselier said he’s certain his business won’t be getting any New Year’s crowds this year.
Blake Street Tavern has more outdoor seating than most restaurants, with a massive tent and outdoor screen in the building’s parking lot, however, Fuselier expects people won't sit outdoors Thursday night amid 25-degree temperatures.
Winter weather is even more of an obstacle for outdoor dining as new state regulations now require two adjacent walls of dining tents to be open for airflow.
“It’s just another nail in the coffin that we’re missing out on,” Fuselier said. “It’s just another loss for my staff, for the bar.”
The income loss has gotten so bad that Blake Street Tavern will be fully closing Monday until the county reopens indoor dining, a decision that has become common among many Denver businesses.
But besides just losing out on money, Dominguez is sad that Denver is losing out on the New Year’s Eve experience.
“People come into the night for a celebration, for starting over,” Dominguez said. “It’s unfortunate that we workers in the nightlife industry can’t provide that this year, especially with it being such a depressing time for everyone.”
“That’s what the nightlife is about, making people happy and making memories.”