La Cocina

Customers wait in line to order at La Cocina de Luz Thursday evening. The Mexican restaurant is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for pick-up and takeout; patrons can use the outdoor patio. (Photo by Justin Criado/Telluride Daily Planet) 

La Cocina de Luz is seemingly always one of the busiest spots in town. The Mexican restaurant with daily specials and a laid-back outdoor dining area has been open since March 18, through offseason, in providing what has become local comfort food. 

“We were never really closed down,” owner and chef Lucas Price said. “We were open from March 18 on. It’s been rough. We’ve only been open for lunch and dinner most of that time.” 

Price said business has been steady as San Miguel County has begun to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. La Cocina is currently open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for pick-up and takeout only. The outdoor patio, with properly distanced seating, can accommodate up to 60 people. The patio paired with the Town of Telluride’s recently created communal dining areas on Main Street has helped, Price added. 

“It’s all outdoor seating, but people can come inside and order. …We have a decent-sized patio. With this additional seating in front it’s turning out to be working well,” he said. “We just need to decorate a little bit. It’s so hot in the summer. We need to get some umbrellas and some nice bamboo reed fencing or something, and some flowerpots. Maybe an acoustic guitarist.”

Though in-person business is allowed up to 50-percent capacity or 50 people, whichever is less, Price explained he’s not sure when La Cocina will allow people to dine in, especially since face coverings are required in public indoor spaces. 

“Well, it’s going to be a while. I just think it’s really risky business because you can’t eat or drink with a mask on. It’s bad enough outside. We just have to be cautious and creative,” he said, adding, “I feel for the restaurants that don’t have any kind of outdoor patio like here. We’re very fortunate. It’s helping. I think people can be creative and turn parking lots and sidewalks into more seating in combination to what the town is doing. Lance (McDonald, town project manager) has done a really good job of helping us out. 

Price explained that educating customers on the area’s ordinances, specifically the facemask requirement, has been part of the job recently, especially with more visitors traveling to the area. 

“People have to be careful. … It’s just a no-brainer,” he said, adding that opinions about masks vary drastically and there’s a way to do it in a smart, productive way. “We’ve got to find that balance. Here in Telluride I think we can do that as a community.”

Thursday would have been the first day of the 47th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the first big event of the summer, which was canceled for the first time in its history due to the pandemic. With no festivals or large gatherings, including the annual Fourth of July celebration, until September’s Telluride Film Festival and Blues & Brews, Price expects business to be steady, though not as good as a regular summer season.

“It’s going OK. It’s probably about 50 percent of average. Today’s Bluegrass Thursday so we’d be doing close to $8,500 today. We’ll be lucky to do half of that. We’ll be fine,” he said. “It’ll be a nice summer. It’ll be sort of a constant. I think we’ll have some busy days. It’ll be interesting to see what happens the Fourth of July. A bunch of people are going to come up anyway.” 

Public health officials announced five new positive COVID-19 cases Wednesday, which were the first local, active cases in over a month. 

Two of the new cases are related to the case announced June 12, while three are independent, including one non-clinical staff person from the Telluride Regional Medical Center, according to a county news release. The med center worker does not have contact with patients and is not believed to have contracted the virus at the medical center.