Getting a phone call in the early hours of the morning saying a car has crashed through your restaurant window is not how many of us want to start our day. For Sean Workman, it happened three times last year.
The Hornet, which opened at 76 Broadway in December 1995, fought through a tough 2018 after three separate accidents brought cars crashing through its window. The restaurant sits on the corner of East First Avenue and Broadway.
The first accident happened on Feb. 14, the second on Nov. 11 and the third on Dec. 1. Workman, co-owner of The Hornet, said there were three different circumstances to the accidents. The second two happened later at night when the restaurant was either closed, or in the process of closing, but the first accident happened on a crowded restaurant holiday.
“We were full that day. It was right at noon on Valentine’s Day, and we were packed and full,” Workman said. “Some regulars of ours were honestly about a half step away from death.”
Despite the busy day, no one inside the restaurant was hit by the vehicle.
Although the accident is handled by Workman’s building insurance and the insurance of the drivers, the restaurant still bears the cost of the accident. The insurance process is long and complicated. Workman said the first accident is still on the restaurant’s record.
In the most recent hit, Workman said the restaurant lost 30 percent of its seating area. In December, construction workers estimated it would take around 60 days to complete all the work. Workman estimated that the cost would hit six figures since there was structural damage to the front of the building.
In the early weeks of the holiday season, many staff members needed the hours. Workman said he wanted to avoid cutting staff.
“It’s that time of the year where every body’s counting on us being busy,” he said. “We’re trying to keep everybody with the same shifts that they’ve had, and smaller sections and hoping to turn tables more frequently in hopes that the sales are still there for everybody. We’re taking the fall as a team.”
After the three accidents, Workman said he is hoping that more awareness is brought to pedestrians in the area. The Hornet has hosted community meetings about city plans to add a protected bike lane to Broadway. Workman said he also hopes something can be done for speeding enforcement and safer crosswalks, saying people “shouldn’t have to be worried about crossing the street.”
“You can sit here and watch cars, and half of them are going 55, 65 miles an hour. It’s a 30-mile-an-hour street,” he said. “I hope that this brings more awareness and that there’s more thought put into the actual planning of this street.”
Jay Casillas in the media relations unit of the Denver Police Department said there were eight crashes reported at the intersection of East First Avenue and Broadway from Jan. 1, 2018 through Dec. 18. Two of those accidents were due to a high rate of speed, he said.
Although the accidents have been hard on the restaurant, Workman said there was some good that came of it too. Neighbors rallied to the cause. On the boards covering the broken windows of The Hornet, staff used the hashtag #notadrivethru, something the community has embraced. He has also seen customers come in with money for staff.
“I am so encouraged,” he said. “Just when you feel like you’ve lost faith in society, the community’s support of us and people walking in and wanting to help out a neighbor and wanting to help out our staff has been so heartwarming.”
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