Centerplate cutting 276 food service workers in Denver, including at convention center, arts complex

As more of the state falls under tighter restrictions to combat the surge in COVID-19 infections, some employers are reverting to a strategy common last spring — letting go of workers.

Centerplate, a Sodexo Company, informed the Colorado Department of Labor on Tuesday that it was laying off 276 food service workers employed at the Colorado Convention Center, Denver Performance Arts Complex and Prelude + Post restaurant, formerly known as the Limelight Supper Club and Lounge.

“Colorado, continues to be significantly impacted due to the coronavirus pandemic with no known recovery date, thus causing employment losses,” David Winarski, vice president of human resources at the South Carolina company, informed the state in a letter made under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

The positions, scheduled to end on or around Dec. 16,  and include 59 bartenders, 45 cooks, 20 stewards and 17 banquet servers.

“While we are hopeful this layoff will be temporary in nature, we are unable to predict a possible return date at this time. This information is based on the best information currently available to us, but may change due to subsequent events beyond our control,” Winarski said.

Fifteen Colorado counties, including all of metro Denver, will shift to a Level Red status on Friday. The order will ban personal gatherings of any size, cap offices to 10% of their normal occupancy and prohibit restaurants from offering in-person dining, among other things. The state also created a new Level Purple that triggers a full-blown stay-at-home order, something Gov. Jared Polis said would only be invoked if hospitals exceeded capacity.

Businesses and employees alike lack the safety net the federal government provided in the early months of the pandemic. An additional $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits expired in late July and the Paycheck Protection Program that provided employers forgivable loans to cover payroll ended on Aug. 8.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress remain divided on who should receive assistance and how much money should be provided.

Some businesses, however, remain in a hiring mode. Walmart said it has hired about 157,000 associates, including 670 in Colorado, to fill pickup and delivery orders from customers who prefer to not risk exposure by entering a store during the holiday season. The jobs pay $13 an hour and have the potential to become permanent.

“This holiday, more than ever, we know how important it will be for customers to use time-saving services like pickup and delivery – and we’re prepared to serve them with more than double the number of personal shoppers versus last year,” Tom Ward, a senior vice president of customer product at Walmart, said in a blog post.

Since the pandemic struck, Walmart has added more than 500,000 new associates and another 20,000 seasonal workers for its e-commerce fulfillment centers.

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