Business owners are cautiously optimistic about the county’s new public health order
Local businesses are eager to get to level green and see restrictions loosened
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Scott “Scooter” Crawford’s name.
As local businesses settle into the county’s level yellow restrictions, some are feeling cautiously optimistic about the new local public health order that officially replaced the state’s mandated dial framework on Friday, April 16.
“I believe our town is taking careful, but logical next steps,” Connie Elder wrote in an email. Elder is the owner of Maggie Pond Boutique and Peak 10 Skin. “The goal (seems) to be to keep our residents and guests safe and hospitalizations at a minimum, while taking steps toward helping businesses stay viable.
“We each can make our own decisions to protect ourselves beyond what is required at any level,” she continued.
The Summit County Board of Health approved the new order on Thursday, April 15. Local officials held a town hall on Friday morning to answer questions from business owners and residents. Included in attendees were Eric Mamula, mayor of Breckenridge and owner of Downstairs at Eric’s.
“I’m actually not here as the mayor today, I’m here as a restaurant owner,” Mamula said during the town hall. “I think the (vaccinations are) really the key to us getting out of this.”
Mamula said that nearly 100% of his kitchen staff and nearly 80% of his floor staff are vaccinated.
“Everybody understands that our success this summer is going to really depend on moving this dial all the way to green and getting back to normal spacing between tables because for those of us in the restaurant business — no matter how many levels we go through — with 6-foot spacing, there’s really no change for us,” he said.
Mamula said the removal of the two household gathering rule was helpful, but not enough to increase business at most restaurants. Scott “Scooter” Crawford, owner of 5th Avenue Grille in Frisco, said that the fact that his staff doesn’t have to conduct contract tracing is also a relief.
Kim Nix, general manager of the Dillon Dam Brewery, said the same thing, and that she’d occasionally lose business over these rules.
“Many guests were very reluctant to give us their name and phone numbers,” she wrote in an email. “It made it very awkward for the host staff and some guests even got angry and left refusing to give us contact information.”
Crawford noted that the new local dial didn’t change much for him and his business, but said he hoped that local officials weren’t opening the community too soon.
“I just hoped they were doing the right thing as far as safetywise,” Crawford said. “We’re all sick of the masks, we’re all sick of doing all this stuff, but my main concern is keeping people safe.”
Tim Applegate, who is the owner of several restaurants around the county including Sauce on the Blue, Sauce on the Maggie and Quandary Grille, echoed Mamula’s sentiments during the town hall. He said he hopes that the county is able to reach its vaccination goal before the start of the summer tourist season.
“We’ve got to find a way to get this done and get to that point so we can save our summer,” he said. “Let’s be honest, that’s the most important thing we’ve got going right now. We’ve got a month and a half until Memorial Day, so if we can get there, I think that’s the most important thing.”
Though some residents will remain hesitant about getting a vaccine, Mamula encouraged the audience at the town hall to get one if they are able.
“That 6-foot spacing is something that we really need … to go away and the way we get there is getting to that 70% level for vaccinations,” he said. “I know that there are some people that don’t trust vaccines and don’t trust science and I get that. We just got to get to 70%.
“There will always be people that don’t feel that this is their way,” he continued. “Hopefully most of us do, and I think the county has done an unbelievable job of making it easy to get in there and get a vaccine.”
Looking ahead, Nix said that she’s very concerned about staffing and filling needed positions as the community moves toward reopening, a thought that’s been brought up by other restaurateurs too.
“We just are not getting the amount of applications in that we used to,” Nix wrote in an email. “I am hopeful that as things open back up more people will want to move here and will be looking for jobs. But with the rent prices so high, most are having trouble finding places to live.
“A lot of my current staff are ending leases, and they are concerned about finding new places to live also and being able to stay in Summit,” she continued. “We have been trying to hire just one line cook since January and haven’t gotten any applications for that position.”
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