I’m so thankful 2020 is over and I know you are too! The past 10 months have been tough! As the new year begins, I think it is important to focus on some amazing community members that helped to make 2020 more bearable: our local restaurants! Despite the devastating effects of what happened in 2020, our local restaurants fought through it all. These business owners and community members walked through last minute changes to close the doors, go to takeout only, open the doors (but at only 25 percent), set up outside dining (while it was 10 degrees, snowy and windy), set up online ordering, and so much more.

Restaurants are the soul of the community. In a normal year, we go out to eat and drink to meet friends, laugh, cry, catch up, find out what is going on in the community, and laugh some more. It is good for our souls. It is how we connect and I’m looking forward to 2021 and all it has to offer. I wanted to highlight this industry and put a face to our local restaurants. Aspen Peak Cellars Winery—if you have not been here, you need to make plans NOW. Owners Marcel and Julie Flukiger are amazing! They are longtime residents dedicated to many area nonprofits and to making this community better. The food is delicious and the wine is prize winning! This is the perfect place to enjoy live music and time with friends. Aspen Perk Café is another family restaurant owned by Paula Nesbitt and her son Mathew. The family has been running this café for over 13 years. They are always supporting local nonprofits and community organizations. When the pandemic hit, they were putting together grocery boxes for those who didn’t feel comfortable going into the grocery stores. I love to set up meetings here as they offer a full coffee bar and fantastic breakfast and lunch options. The breakfast burritos and green chili are top notch! Brooks Place Tavern is another local gem. Owners Nicole Garcia and Dave Schafer also have a heart for our community. They celebrated their one-year anniversary owning BPT in August of 2020—talk about a tough first year of business. Dave and Nicole took it all in stride and are two of the most positive people I know. They did all they could to hold onto as many employees as possible and adjust to still serve AMAZING food and drinks! Castles & Kitchens is owned by Francesca Arniotes and Tom Becker, longtime residents, friends, and very dedicated to our community. You have probably run into them volunteering at community events! Castles & Kitchens is located behind Staples, and in a normal year offers cooking experiences and lessons. This past year, they adjusted the experiences to your home. Order a new special each week and be transported to a new land. Even through the pandemic, they made date night a possibility! Ebony & Vine is one of the newest restaurants in Conifer and you may know them from their catering business, La Cuisine. Owners Laurie Baumer and Dylan Shively have been in the community for a long time. They recognize the importance of connection and how a great meal heightens that experience. They were in the middle of moving their location from Evergreen to Conifer in March of 2020. Despite the obvious challenges, they pushed through and opened a fantastic new restaurant with delivery service, located right outside of the Safeway center near Starbucks. The challenges have delayed the piano bar portion, but I can’t wait for that to open up!

This is a small number of restaurants here along the 285 Corridor. Next month, I’ll continue to tell the stories of our local eateries. In the meantime, get to know these local gems, enjoy the amazing food and connect with our community!

Here is what is coming up at the Conifer Chamber over the next few months.

I’m thrilled the vaccines are out and hopeful we will see the numbers continue to drop and businesses continue to open up. I am continuing to work on the Jefferson County Business Task Force advocating for our local businesses as we continue to walk through COVID-19. This task force has been pushing the 5 Star program to help businesses open up to one level higher than the current order. During the month of January, I will be helping businesses navigate this process. Of course, it might not make sense for all businesses, so the Conifer Chamber is here to help navigate this program.

If you have questions, reach out to me, Melanie Swearengin, at the Conifer Chamber. If I don’t have the answer, I know someone who does.