Restauranteurs are creative people. Their innovation and resourcefulness have been challenged with the COVID pandemic. One restaurant in Aurora, Colorado has created a cozy dining option on their patio.

Annette offers a scratch-to-table menu and an atmosphere of family, home and warmth. Caroline Glover is a four-time James Beard nominated chef who creates quality, innovative cuisine. The small scale and personal touches at Annette make it a beautiful place to experience a meal. It also means they are a small business who struggled to find ways to host guests with capacity limits, dining room closures and strict protocols.

When Caroline, her husband Nelson and their team looked at options to create a private dining room in winter, a yurt was a perfect choice. The couple once lived in a yurt while working on a farm, so they knew the charm and warmth of the space.

In the city of Aurora, the yurt is considered outdoor dining. It can seat a maximum of six guests at a time and is cleaned and ventilated between uses. When rules are relaxed and indoor dining is permitted again, Annette will seat two parties of eight in the yurt, with at least six feet of spacing between the parties. They also installed single-party, heated greenhouses. The restaurant is located at Stanley Marketplace, an airplane hangar turned food hall in northwest Aurora. The yurt sits in the marketplace’s southeast plaza.

Caroline says, “Annette has always been a very personal project for us. The restaurant is named after my great aunt. Our poppy logo was painted by my grandfather and features my mother’s handwriting. My father made our dining room tables. The restaurant walls are lined with family photos. In the yurt, we decorated with artwork work from my grandfather, with photographs of his art studio. When we finished, it was so gratifying to see the yurt become an extension of our original space.”

The yurt was pitched by Colorado Yurt Company founders, Dan and Emma Kigar. Nelson and Caroline worked alongside them over the course of two days (with a slight delay because of a Colorado snow storm). Nelson says, “It was fun to take part in a yurt build, and to see firsthand the elegant design. We were amazed to see such a warm, inviting and structurally-sound space created in such a short time.”

Customers have embraced the new space by making reservations and dining with their families.  It seems that people simply want to be in the space. There is something so inviting about the round rooms, it makes people want to linger and spend time inside. Nelson adds, “Honestly, our biggest challenge has been getting guests to leave before our next reservation—once they get in there, they don’t want to get out!”

They add, “Colorado Yurt Company has been a pleasure to work with from start to finish. They helped us create a safe, inviting winter dining environment to help Annette weather the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a particular honor to work with Dan and Emma. That made this project feel very special.”