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Is Durango’s restaurant ‘title’ in jeopardy?

Dear Action Line: Before the pandemic, Durango boasted the greatest number of restaurants per capita in the country. With the recent closure announcements by many of the longtime establishments, how do we still stack up? – Scott Gibbs

Dear Scott: This boast always seemed a little bit hokey to Action Line, but it’s absolutely true that Durango has a ton of mighty good restaurants. It is sad to be losing a few of the mainstays, and here’s wishing that locals will do their utmost in this time of crisis to support their favorite restaurants as best they can.

Dave Woodruff, president of the Durango chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association, made a clarification to the sometimes-misunderstood boast. Durango doesn’t necessarily have the highest number of restaurants per capita in the U.S., he explained. But we do have more per capita than San Francisco, which before the pandemic held the title among cities that report such statistics, which includes major cities such as Denver, Dallas, San Francisco, etc.

“Granted,” Woodruff said, “Durango is much smaller, but to have over 140 restaurants in a town of 17,000 is a big ole peacock feather in the cap for our little mountain town.”

To get to your question: Yes, Durango has lost a few eateries, but as you can imagine, a place such as San Francisco has been hit much harder. Consider, Woodruff pointed out, that big cities have huge office buildings with hundreds or thousands of employees that are now lying dormant or little-used. The effects on nearby restaurants have been disastrous. Woodruff, general manager at El Moro Spirits & Tavern, said he noticed this happening firsthand during a trip to Seattle.

Woodruff remains optimistic for Durango.

“That’s just a hypothesis on my part,” he said. “When we come out of the storm, I would anticipate those vacancies to be filled back in with those entrepreneurial minds who want to open up a restaurant again.”

Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District, concurred that although we’ve lost some restaurants, that sector has been hit hard everywhere, “So I think we can retain our ‘title.’”

Dear Action Line: What’s up with the Cease and Desist Orders the city of Durango has taped on several of the newspaper vending racks downtown? Is this an attempt to squelch the media? – Newshound

Will anyone save this newspaper vending rack before it is sent to oblivion?

Dear Newshound: Well, not exactly. The city of Durango makes us all jump through a few hoops, as we well know, and someone apparently forgot about this hoop.

News racks in the Central Business District require annual, $30 permits in order to be placed at approved locations on public property, explained Steve Barkley, city code enforcement officer. Perhaps because of COVID-19, it’s been difficult for code enforcement to contact news rack owners. And when the person formerly responsible for the news rack can’t be contacted, as has occurred several times recently, that adds another layer of difficulty.

The news racks that got the Cease and Desist Orders are not being censored, but are receiving Barkley’s final, last-ditch attempt to get a response. If after 10 days there’s no response, the racks will be impounded. If the owners don’t claim them, they’ll eventually be put out of their misery (thrown away).

Action Line implores that if you have a news rack you love, please don’t let this happen.

Clarification

As well as the “puffer law,” which makes it illegal to leave an idling car unattended, the state of Colorado also has a law in place to limit idling vehicles in general. Action Line neglected to report this in last week’s column, and regrets the omission.

Colorado Revised Statute 42-14-105, last revised in 2011, specifically says that a vehicle, attended or not, cannot idle for more than five minutes in a 60-minute period, or for 20 minutes when it’s less than 10 degrees. Thanks to reader Michelle Reott for pointing this out.

Action Line welcomes the clarifications and corrections, but still retains the right to strongly dislike being wrong, or, in this case, not being fully right.

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301.

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