2020: A Year to Remember (& Can’t Ever Forget) for Pizza Bar 66
A year ago, nearly to the day, all of our lives were changed in a way we could never predict. I remember it like it was yesterday, and despite my best efforts, will never be able to forget it.
My partner, Andy Crawford, and I took over Pizza Bar 66 in September, 2018. The first year and a half were spent getting our bearings, meeting the wonderful people of Lyons and establishing the business as a viable part of the Lyons restaurant landscape. Even in good times, it is a tricky market to negotiate. The summer months are amazing, with the countless weekend warriors making their ways through town en route to Estes and beyond. The major festivals bring a boost to the local economy in substantial fashion, and of course, Lyons has established itself as a premier destination for hikers and mountain bikers alike.
The winters, however, are a different story, as the aforementioned boons to business go into a hibernation that significantly impacts all the businesses in town. It is therefore, critical that all businesses are aware of this seasonality and plan accordingly.
In March of 2020, just when we were preparing to ramp up for the windfalls of another prosperous Spring, Summer and Fall, the world literally shut down, as did our business. Like many, we were caught off guard by the pandemic that would change everything. We knew we needed to adjust our business, and quickly, if we wanted to survive. For 18 months, we had been open for both lunch and dinner services, but we immediately realized lunches were no longer an option, as they were not financially feasible. This made staffing extremely difficult, as some of our strongest people were only available during the day time. We were unable to retain a number of amazing employees, who were also incredible parts of the PB66 family. This was probably the hardest part of the entire situation. One after another, our family began to splinter, as everyone had to look after themselves. Some moved back home, some just couldn’t make ends meet and were forced to seek other more reliable employment.
We pressed on the best we could. Our strongest opportunity was to continue offering our fares at dinner time to the good people of Lyons, whose support was literally mind-blowing. We shifted to a to-go only model (by necessity as all dining rooms were closed by the State). We made a concerted effort to get people to order through our 3rd Party Online Ordering System; and it worked with surprisingly good results. We were able to add items to our menu that people in town were asking for. Who would have thought one could order a Pizza, some Toilet Paper, Eggs and a Gift Certificate for an anonymous person in need? Desperate times required desperate measures. Those first few months were tough, but with the support of this incredible community, we made it safely to the summer months. Summer brought a sense of hope and promise as new opportunities presented themselves.
Without question, things would have been much more difficult without the financial assistance of federal, state and local agencies, who offered loans and grants to struggling businesses. We were able to secure funding from the PPP program, but also were the beneficiary of local grants from LCF, LEAF, Town of Lyons and Boulder County that proved to be “life-saving.” We can’t possibly thank these incredible organizations enough.
As part of this financial infusion, we were able to build an outdoor space, which was in our plans pre-Covid. This was really a benefit of the terrible situation. We had also just finished our garage door front seating area of the restaurant. With the addition of these two new seating options, which customers certainly preferred, as they were a much safer option, we were able to make it through the warmer months, with a significantly lesser negative impact on our sales. Things were once again, looking up.
Old man winter would have something to say about that, as he reared his ugly head again. This was made even more difficult, when inside dining was once again shut down at the end of November, due to a Second Wave of the virus. December was one of the most difficult months on record in our tenure at PB66. We were still allowed to have folks outside, but who wants to brave subzero temperatures to support us? Well, I’ll tell you, the support we did get was enough to warm our hearts more than I ever thought possible! We did our best to return the warmth in the form of countless trips to Clark’s Propane in Hygiene to refill our portable heaters. Once again, our most loyal patrons, friends and family stepped up in a BIG way to get us through the worst of the worst, and for that, we are forever indebted to these wonderful humans!
Now here we are, March to March, one year later, and things again are finally looking hopeful. We will continue to shift our business as needed, so that we can continue to persevere. With the coming of Spring, hope indeed springs eternal. We must continue to hope, against all odds. It is human nature to do so. We cannot, however, simply rely on hope. We must continue to stay the course. Throughout this entire process, we have insisted that our customers follow the guidelines that prove the best path to public safety. We have required masks when not seated at tables. Our tables are socially distanced. We provide hand sanitizer at every table. We have made every effort to contribute positively to putting this nightmare behind us. We are encouraging everyone (especially our 60+ clientele) to do their part and get vaccinated as soon as possible. I do believe the worst is behind us, and if we all work together to finish strong, we will be back to some semblance of normalcy sooner than later.
I’m not quite sure what normal is anymore, but I do know that I want to hug again. I want to go to festivals again. I want to meet my friends for Happy Hour again. I want to sit in the stands at my kids’ soccer games. I want my kids to go back to school. The list goes on and on.
This has been an incredible ride. I will always remember it and will never forget the lessons I’ve learned. Mostly, humanity is better when we are kind to one another, when we lift each other up, and when we support each other as a community to be the BEST we can be!
…………………Michael Moore, co-owner, Pizza Bar 66