Business owners share fears, frustrations at round table discussion with Sen. Rankin |

Business owners share fears, frustrations at round table discussion with Sen. Rankin

State Sen. Bob Rankin, right, meets with Tony Pestello, left, John Williams, middle, and seven other business leaders in Summit County to discuss frustrations and fears surrounding the novel coronavirus at The Uptown on Main in Frisco on Friday, July 17.
Libby Stanford /

FRISCO — State Sen. Bob Rankin met with business owners across Summit County Friday to discuss challenges and concerns surrounding the novel coronavirus. 

Nine business leaders met with Rankin at The Uptown on Main in Frisco to share their thoughts on recent legislation and ways to keep small business alive. While many of the businesses have been able to survive during the pandemic, owners and managers fear for the future. 

“If you were to ask me what could you do to make sure that we live through this, we cannot have another shutdown,” Bruce Horii, director of sales and marketing at Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center, said. “It would cripple everybody.”

Horii wasn’t alone in his fear of another shutdown. Some of the business owners at Friday’s meeting felt the state government has overstepped its bounds by instituting emergency orders, which limit restaurant capacity, requiring people to wear masks statewide and giving regulations to nearly all industries. 

“What really bothered me through the closure and then the reopening is there seem to be a lot of experts around my business and the lodging business that had no business being (involved),” said Mike Spry, a Silverthorne Town Council member and owner of Sunshine Cafe. “People are trying to put guidance together without a knowledge of how those individual sectors of the economy operate.”

Tony Pestello, owner of ifurnish in Frisco, felt Colorado Gov. Jared Polis should have given more power to county and town governments rather than making statewide mandates, including the mandate that requires everyone to wear a mask. 

“The struggle I have with the state mandating everything is that every county is different in this state,” Pestello said. “When Polis mandates stuff it doesn’t always work for every single county in the state.”

While Horii and Spry felt that the mask mandate helps keep everyone safe, they agreed with Pestello that some of the emergency ordinances make it difficult to operate their businesses. 

“To me, it’s impossible to absorb everything that’s going on with this virus,” Horii said. “That’s why you have staff and that’s why you have local community input. But someone’s got to filter this and look at it and view our frustration that he’s doing things on his own. How do we get him to engage our elected officials and our representation?”

Rankin said that, in a lot of ways, his hands are tied when it comes to helping businesses survive. Right now, the legislature doesn’t have a say in the decisions being made in response to the novel coronavirus because of the state’s emergency order. 

“Our law says that when you declare an emergency this is the way it works,” he said. “Did that law intend for that to go on for a year at a time? I don’t think so. I think it was to take care of floods, tornadoes. I don’t think it was meant to take care of a yearlong virus emergency.”

Rankin and the business leaders also discussed the impact ski resorts will have on small businesses if they decide not to open for the winter season. 

“I, like this whole group, am scared to death of what might happen come this winter,” Hurii said.

All of the business owners said they rely on tourism to survive. Without that, they worry for the county’s economy. 

“We’re over-built for our population,” Spry said. “If we lock the doors and we seal ourselves in a bubble, we’ve got our 30,000 folks that live here. Can we exist? Nope, because we are built to be able to have another 50,000 or 70,000 butts in beds.”

While Rankin himself doesn’t hold much power over what happens with the virus, he encouraged the business leaders to be active in the local communities and have more conversations discussing their concerns. 

“The ecosystem and the business systems of the resort community, I’m starting to think there’s not much real understanding in the legislature about this dynamic,” he said. “When you have a big recreation industry a lot of small businesses depend on that. I think, to some extent, we are in peril because we may have a lot of your businesses just closing.”

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